By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Attorneys for Maj. Nidal Hasan have filed an appeal asking the nation's highest military court to prevent a Fort Hood judge from forcibly shaving the accused Fort Hood shooter.
Military judge Col. Gregory Gross has said he will have Hasan forcibly shaved before his court-martial begins on Aug. 20, or possibly earlier.
Hasan will be in a Fort Hood court today for a pretrial hearing. Lawyers are expected to hear testimony from two expert witnesses discussing a report that labels Hasan a home-grown terrorist.
Hasan's government-appointed attorneys also have asked the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to stay any court-martial proceedings while the high court considers the appeal. Both appeals were filed on Tuesday.
The appeal states Hasan, who began growing a beard in May, has had a premonition that his death is imminent. He is a Sunni Muslim.
"He does not wish to die without a beard, as he believes not having a beard is a sin," it states.
One of the members of Hasan's defense team, chaplain Maj. Abdullah Hulwe, has spoken with Hasan about his religious views. Hulwe, who is also an Imam, believes Hasan's desire to have a beard is sincere, the appeal states.
Gross has barred Hasan from court proceedings since he first arrived wearing a beard in June. He called Hasan's beard a distraction and noted that his appearance was violated military regulations.
His reprimands have become more severe of late. At Hasan's last two hearings, Gross has found Hasan in contempt and ordered the Army psychiatrist to pay a $1,000 fine.
Hasan's attorneys wrote that Hasan has been cooperative during hearings, despite the beard. He has remained quiet during all hearings, which Gross noted.
"I agree with you that the accused is not being disruptive, as in a normal case, where someone is yelling arguing with the military judge, or civilian judge, whatever it may be," the appeal quotes Gross as saying.
But Gross removed Hasan, stating his appearance takes away from the "dignity, order and decorum of the court martial," the appeal states.
Hasan has watched hearings from a nearby trailer on closed-circuit television. But his lack of presence in the courtroom during trial could be cited as a reason to overturn a conviction, Gross and other area lawyers have said.
It also cites an appeal case that prohibited Newark, N.J., police from disciplining Muslim officers who violated department policy by growing beards.
Gross has said he would allow Hasan to wear a beard if Army officials granted an exception. Pentagon officials cited unit cohesion and morale in denying Hasan's request.
"[T]here is no showing that these justifications are pertinent to (Hasan), who resides full time in a county jail, punctuated only by brief trips to the Fort Hood courtroom," the appeal states.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.