A military judge in Texas ruled Thursday that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, must be clean-shaven before his court martial, or he will be forcibly shaved.
Army regulations ban beards, but Hasan, 41, who is still receiving military pay and benefits, objected on religious grounds, arguing that as a Muslim it would be a sin for him to shave.
He appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which last week ruled that Hasan’s appeal was premature because the military judge handling his case had not issued a definitive order. The court sent the case back to that judge.
Col. Gregory Gross, the military judge at Fort Hood, issued his order Thursday after a hearing to determine whether a federal religious freedom law applied to Hasan’s case. Soldiers may be granted permission to grow beards for religious reasons, and six soldiers have been allowed to do so: a rabbi, two Muslim doctors and three Sikhs, according to Army records.
But Gross ruled that the defense hadn’t proved that Hasan grew a beard for sincere religious reasons, a Fort Hood spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.
The order will probably trigger another delay in Hasan’s trial because his attorneys are expected to appeal to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, according to Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway. If they fail there, they could continue to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in connection with the November 2009 attack at the base in central Texas, among the largest in the country.