Fort Hood shooting trial set to begin
Fort Hood: The long-awaited trial of a US army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a 2009 shooting spree at a Texas base is set to begin with jury selection on Tuesday.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, 42, could face the death penalty if convicted of carrying out the mass shooting at a processing center where hundreds of soldiers were preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The November 2009 incident is the worst shooting on a military base in US history. It shocked the military and led to an outcry for greater security from "homegrown" terror acts.
Hasan is also accused of wounding 32 fellow soldiers during the Fort Hood massacre people who may end up being cross-examined by Hasan after he fired his lawyers and opted to represent himself.
Hasan wanted to use a "defense of others" strategy to justify his actions. But military judge Colonel Tara Osborn prohibited him from doing so after ruling that the argument had no merit.
In a copy of Hasan`s intended opening statement obtained by AFP, he acknowledged that "it`s not going to be easy" to convince a jury made up of soldiers that his actions were justified.
Hasan wrote that he planned to prove that the United States had engaged in an "illegal war" in Afghanistan and that "I did what I thought was necessary to help."
"I want to convey to you that my actions were meant to defend a people who were attacked by the United States," Hasan wrote.
"It took a lot of courage for me to help defend the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," he added.
It is not clear what Hasan will say when the court martial gets underway in a few weeks now that he has been barred from offering any evidence or testimony indicating he believed he was saving the lives of Muslims in Afghanistan when he admittedly opened fire.
Many military law experts agreed with the judge`s ban, but Hasan`s advocates argue that it violates his constitutional rights to a fair trial.
"I think that defense is obscene," said Richard Rosen, a military law professor at Texas Tech University. "That would justify shooting the president because he is targeting the Taliban and leaders of Al-Qaeda. It`s offensive."
Rosen agreed with Osborn`s recent ruling, which he said was "reasonable and not overly tough."
Hasan`s former defense attorney John Galligan, a retired Army colonel, called the trial a "kangaroo court."
"She`s essentially said you`ll never hear from Nidal Hasan," Galligan said. "It`s a major, major error."
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