A military judge on Thursday ordered officials to forcibly shave Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the shooting rampage at the Fort Hood base here in 2009, a move that is likely to delay the start of his trial for weeks as his defense lawyers appeal the ruling.
A few months ago, Major Hasan's assertion that he grew a beard out of devotion to his Muslim faith seemed a side issue as pretrial hearings were held at a military court on the base. But as a hearing Thursday made clear, the beard—and what Army officials can do about it—has become a complex legal issue that has suspended Major Hasan’s trial indefinitely for the second time in the span of a few weeks.
Army regulations prohibit soldiers from having beards, and allow for the forced shaving of those who violate the rules. The judge presiding over Major Hasan's case, Col. Gregory Gross, has held him in contempt and repeatedly fined him for appearing in court with the beard, ordering him to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television from a nearby trailer.
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