By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
A military judge barred Maj. Nidal Hasan from a courtroom Tuesday after Hasan again appeared in court with a beard his lawyers said he grew for religious purposes. The accused shooter in the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood appeared at a pre-trial hearing June 8 sporting the full beard, prompting Col. Gregory Gross to delay the hearing because the beard violated military grooming standards. After two guards escorted Hasan from the court, he watched Tuesday’s proceedings on closed-circuit television inside a trailer adjacent to the Fort Hood courthouse.
Gross told defense attorneys he could hold Hasan in contempt and force him to shave. But Gross said he would not go that far yet. “I’ll wait for him to shave right now if he wants to come back in here,” said Gross. Citing Hasan’s Islamic faith, the defense asked the Army to grant an exemption to regulations that prohibit soldiers from growing beards. Lead defense attorney Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe said Hasan has had premonitions of his own death, leading the 41-year-old Army psychiatrist to a stronger adherence to his religion. Gross remained steadfast and didn’t back down from his original request. “His conduct is disrespectful,” said the judge. “He has disobeyed an order from the court. He has disobeyed his commander.”
Hasan’s request for an exemption to military regulations remains under review at the Pentagon. If granted, Gross said he would allow Hasan to return to court with the beard. For the rest of Tuesday’s five-hour hearing, Hasan remained in the trailer, accompanied by a defense attorney, a paralegal and two guards. Hasan was able to communicate with the court if he or his counsel had any questions, and Gross granted recesses when the defense asked to speak with him.