US & Canada

Fort Hood Nidal Hasan shooting trial judge removed

Nidal Hasan
Image caption Nidal Hasan is accused of opening fire on soldiers preparing for deployment at Fort Hood

The top US military court has removed the judge in a case of a man accused of killing 13 people at a Texas army base.

The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said Col Gregory Gross had not appeared fully impartial in the case of Maj Nidal Hasan.

The court also overturned an order that the suspect have his beard forcibly shaved before his court martial.

Maj Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted over a 2009 shooting spree that wounded over two dozen people.

The court said Col Gross had "allowed the proceedings to become a duel of wills between himself and Major Nidal Hasan, rather than an adjudication of the serious offenses with which Hasan is charged".

Thirty-two people were injured in the attack. Maj Hasan, an army psychiatrist, faces 13 counts of pre-meditated murder and 32 counts of attempted pre-meditated murder.

Earlier, Maj Hasan had argued he had grown a beard, against US Army regulations, in compliance with his Muslim faith.

But Col Gross said the 41-year-old had failed to prove sincere religious reasons for wearing the beard and the accused must be clean-shaven or forcibly shaved before his military trial.

The court said in Monday's decision, however, that it was not ruling on whether Maj Hasan's religious rights had been violated.

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

The military trial had been scheduled to start three months ago but was delayed by the appeals over Maj Hasan's facial hair.

Col Gross had found Maj Hasan in contempt of court on six pre-trial hearings because he was not clean-shaven. The court also overturned those contempt of court rulings.

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