'Killer' Maj Nidal Hasan's beard can be 'forcibly' shaved off, US court told

Fort Hood suspect

A judge has the right to order an Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage to be forcibly shaved of his beard before his murder trial, military attorneys told an appeals court today.

Hasan is accused of opening fire at a deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009 and faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shooting at the sprawling Army base.

He faces the death penalty if convicted of murder. A practicing Muslim, 41-year-old Hasan grew a beard as an expression of his religious beliefs, his attorneys said. But the facial hair is in violation of Army grooming regulations.

The attorneys, in a document filed on behalf of Col. Gregory Gross, contend that forcibly shaving Maj Nidal Hasan would not violate the American-born Muslim's religious freedoms and said it is similar to "and no more invasive than" a judge's right to restrain a defendant who is disruptive during a court-martial.

"Forced shaving is not a novel concept in the military," military attorneys said in the judge's response filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

"Army regulations expressly authorise nonconsensual haircutting and face-shaving for recalcitrant incarcerated soldiers. ... If the judge has authority to bind and gag a disruptive accused (soldier), then certainly he has authority to forcibly shave (Hasan)."

Last week that appeals court delayed Hasan's court-martial, which had been set to start earlier this week with jury selection, while it considers his appeal to being forcibly shaved. Now that the judge has responded, the court can make a decision or choose to hear oral arguments in the case first.

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