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Judge orders Nidal Hasan to shave or be forcibly shaved

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:39pm

Col. Gregory Gross, the judge who will oversee the military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, ordered the Army psychiatrist to be forcibly shaved for his trial, according to Tyler Broadway, a spokesman at Fort Hood.

The order is likely to trigger an appeal that would further delay the case, which has dragged on now since 2009.

Hasan's attorney had filed an appeal when Gross threatened to order the shaving but the appeals court said it wouldn't issue a decision until the shaving was actually ordered. Thursday's order by Gross opens the door for that appeal.

The last time he was in court, Hasan told the judge, "Your honor, in the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim. I believe that my religion requires me to wear a beard."

Gross has said the beard violates Army regulations and Hasan is still an officer in the U.S. Army and subject to regulations.

Hasan's court-martial had been scheduled to start last month at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas, where he is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32.

His lawyers can now go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, an independent tribunal with worldwide jurisdiction over active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces and others subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The District of Columbia-based court is made up of five civilian judges appointed for 15-year terms by the president. Decisions of the court are subject to direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Such an appeals process could delay Hasan's criminal trial for months if not years.

The trial judge, Col. Gregory Gross, in U.S. vs. Maj. Nidal M. Hasan ordered Hasan, has ordered Hasan to shave his beard before proceeding with further hearings or trial on September 6

Gross heard arguments by the defense and prosecution on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and whether the federal act supports the accused right to keep his beard. He determined that RFRA does apply to court martial proceedings, but ultimately ruled that the defense failed to meet their burden to prove that the beard should be allowed.

The defense argued that forcing Hasan to shave would leave him in a "perilous religious state." They argued that Hasan has sincere and genuine religious motives for growing a beard, which were further strengthened this year.

The government argued that Hasan is attempting to thwart in court identification by witnesses and is using the beard to manifest an outward desire to associate himself with the Mujahedeen, a radical Islamic movement.

A stay was not placed on the case but the defense is expected to appeal the decision with a military court. This will prevent the parties from actually appearing in court until a final decision is rendered.

In the meantime, both parties wil continue to do business with the trial court, but are not expected to appear again in court until the RFRA issue is fully resolved.

Gross also ruled on a defense motion seeking to disqualify a prosecutor. Gross found that no prosecutorial misconduct had occurred, therefore no disqualification was required.

No further hearings are set at the moment.

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