Major Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, will soon face a court-martial. Should the case have been labeled an act of terrorism rather than 'workplace violence?'
Bell County Sheriff's Department/AP
US Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with killing 13 people and wounding another 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, will soon face a military court-martial that is both controversial and long in coming.
Judge Tara Osborn, a US Army colonel, ruled Wednesday that the trial would go ahead at Fort Hood – the site of what a US Senate report termed "the worst terrorist attack on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001" – rather than be moved to another venue as Major Hasan’s lawyers had wanted.
The Army has said the officers who will make up Hasan's jury will be brought in from another post, probably Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Reuters reports.
Hasan's counsel had said the change in venue and jury pool were a question of fairness, given the saturation coverage about the shootings in the Army Times newspaper, compared with newspapers for the other branches of the armed forces.
Jeffrey Addicott, a retired Army Special Forces judge advocate general, told Reuters before Wednesday’s hearing, "This is such a high profile case that you can't go to any military installation in the world and find a panel which has not heard about this case."
Colonel Osborn also rejected Hasan's request to select jurors from the Navy or Air Force instead of the Army.
The case and the upcoming trial raise questions about how Hasan was charged following the murderous rampage at Fort Hood, which was stopped when two military police officers shot him (resulting in his being paralyzed from the waist down).
Hasan was born in the United States and is therefore a US citizen as well as a commissioned military officer. But he had had e-mail contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born imam listed as an Al Qaeda terrorist and later killed in a US drone strike in Yemen. During the violent 10-minute episode at Fort Hood, Hasan was heard to shout “God is great” in Arabic.
The Defense Department classified the attack as “workplace violence” rather than an act of terrorism.
Critics say this diminishes the case, at least in terms of how it’s perceived.
“Fourteen people, including an unborn child, were killed by Major Nidal Hasan, a man that was known to have terrorist ties,” US Rep. John Carter (R) of Texas said in a statement e-mailed to the Killeen [Texas] Daily Herald. “This was a terrorist attack and it’s time to step up to the plate and give these forgotten warriors the respect and attention they deserve.”