(FORT HOOD, Texas) — The murder trial of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused in the 2009 shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, could be delayed for months after a judge ruled Thursday that military officials must forcibly shave off the defendant’s beard.
Col. Gregory Gross, who is presiding over the case, says that Hasan is in contempt for keeping the beard, which violates military regulations.
Hasan maintains that the beard is meant to show his devotion to his Muslim faith.
Up to now, Gross has fined Hasan and made him watch the court proceedings from another room via closed-circuit TV. However, the judge decided on Thursday to implement regulations that allow for a service member to be forcibly shaved.
Prosecutors argued successfully that the military was not in violation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protects religious observance from government interference.
They accused Hasan of growing the beard to make it more difficult for witnesses to identify him as the alleged gunman who left 13 dead and 32 wounded during a shooting spree in which Hasan was also shot, paralyzing him from the chest down.
Hasan’s lawyers will appeal the judge’s decision that could delay the trial for weeks or possibly months.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tal Kopan, John Berman and Sunlen Serfaty, CNN Newswire
Ralph Ellis and Sara Sidner, CNN