UK & World News

  • 4 December 2012, 12:01

Fort Hood Shootings: Court Stops Beard Shaving

A military appeals court has removed the judge from the case of the Fort Hood shooting suspect and thrown out his order to forcibly shave the defendant's beard.

The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Colonel Gregory Gross did not appear impartial while presiding over the case of Major Nidal Hasan.

Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted of the 2009 shootings at the Texas Army post in which 13 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded.

He appealed after Col Gross ordered that he must be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before the court-martial.

Gross had repeatedly said Hasan's beard was a disruption to the court proceedings.

Hasan has said his beard is a requirement of his Muslim faith, although facial hair violates Army rules.

The appeals court said the command, not the judge, is responsible for enforcing grooming standards.

But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge's order violated Hasan's religious rights.

"Should the next military judge find it necessary to address (Hasan's) beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew," judges wrote in the ruling.

The court-martial had been set to begin three months ago, but has been on hold pending the appeals.

It was not immediately clear if Army prosecutors would appeal against this ruling to the US Supreme Court. Prosecutors have said they would not comment about the case until the trial is over, and Fort Hood officials did not immediately issue a statement.

Soldiers wounded in the incident, along with relatives of those who were killed, are campaigning to get the Pentagon to declare the massacre an act of terrorism rather than an incident of workplace violence.

Survivors say the change could help them get extra compensation and benefits.