Fort Hood suspect killed US soldiers `to protect Taliban`

An Army psychiatrist is accused of gunning down soldiers waiting to deploy to Afghanistan at a Texas Army post.

Updated: Jun 05, 2013, 08:53 AM IST

Fort Hood (US): An Army psychiatrist accused of gunning down soldiers waiting to deploy to Afghanistan at a Texas Army post said on Tuesday his defence would show that he was compelled to do so because the soldiers posed an imminent danger to Taliban fighters.

The military judge responded that Major Nidal Hasan`s "defence of others" strategy would be thrown out if he didn`t provide supporting evidence.

Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty or life without parole if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 attack at Fort Hood.

The American-born Muslim will represent himself in his upcoming court-martial. The "defence of others" defence that Hasan said he would rely on requires him to prove the killings were necessary to protect others from immediate danger or death.

The court-martial had been scheduled to start with jury selection on Wednesday, and on Monday Hasan requested a three-month delay to give him more time to prepare his defence.

The military judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, was to rule on Wednesday on Hasan`s trial delay request. Osborn said jury selection would now start no earlier than Monday.

At a hearing on Tuesday, a day after allowing Hasan to represent himself, Osborn asked what evidence he had to support his defence. He said Taliban leader Mullah Omar and "leadership of the Taliban in general" were in immediate danger from American troops on the Texas Army post, because "the US has attacked and continued to attack the Taliban."

Osborn quickly interrupted Hasan, a day after telling him that he could not make speeches or try to testify when questioning witnesses.

Military law experts not involved in the case said they believe the judge won`t allow Hasan to present that defence.

"A `defence of others` strategy is not going to work when you`re at war and the `others` are enemies of the US," said Jeff Addicott, the director of the Centre for Terrorism Law at St Mary`s University in San Antonio.

"And what makes it more egregious is that he targeted medical personnel whose primary purpose was to heal, not to kill."

Retired Staff Sgt Shawn Manning, shot six times that day, said five of the 13 killed at Fort Hood were in two units that had been training to help soldiers deal with stress.

Deployed soldiers in those units are allowed to fire their weapons only in self-defence, Manning said. Hasan was to deploy to Afghanistan with one of those units.