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Nidal Hasan did not seek Army discharge, official says

WASHINGTON — The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people last week at Fort Hood, Texas, did not formally seek to leave the military as a conscientious objector or for any other reason, an Army official said, despite claims by one of his relatives that he had done so.

It is unclear whether Maj. Nidal Hasan made informal efforts to leave through contacts with his immediate superiors.

Any formal request by Hasan to separate early would have been submitted to the Department of the Army, according to the official, who saw Hasan's file before it was sealed by Army investigators. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

In 2007, addressing other physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Hasan said that to avoid "adverse events" the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors instead of fighting in wars against other Muslims. At the time of the shooting, Hasan was about to be deployed to Afghanistan, officials say.

Even if Hasan had sought to quit the Army over his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as his aunt has said he did, the Army almost certainly would have denied any such request, senior Army officials said. Hasan had a continuing obligation because the Army had provided him with medical training.

In a further indication Hasan was not actively seeking formal discharge, he underwent an Army promotion board in the spring of 2008 that called his performance as an officer patriotic and elevated him from the rank of captain to major, a promotion that took place in May 2009, according to the official.

The Army faces a severe shortage of officers who hold the rank of major, as Hasan does, and that shortage is particularly acute in some medical branches. The Army this year is short about 2,000 majors needed to fill slots created as the service has grown in recent years, according to Army data. In the field of medical doctors, the Army lacks about 15 percent of the majors it needs.

Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, the Army's personnel chief, said in an interview Monday that it would take an extraordinary situation — such as debilitating illness or the death of a spouse — for an officer with Hasan's rank and medical training to be allowed to resign before completing his or her service obligation.

Death penalty is rare in the military

Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is said to have killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas last week, will be prosecuted in a military justice system where no one has been executed in nearly a half-century. Hasan may also benefit from protections the military provides defendants that are greater than those offered in civilian federal courts. Much about Hasan's case will be decided by a senior Army officer, including whether to seek the death penalty and, in the event Hasan is convicted of capital murder, whether to commute a possible death sentence to life in prison. The last military execution was in 1961, though five men sit on the military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Associated Press

Nidal Hasan did not seek Army discharge, official says 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 9:07pm]
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