Fort Hood soldier convicted of massacre could get death penalty
Nidal Malik Hasan, a US army psychiatrist who killed and wounded dozens of unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas in November 2009. he has been found guilty by a military jury of mass murder.
A military jury has convicted US army psychiatrist Maj Nidal Hasan of all 13 charges of premeditated murder and all 32 charges of attempted premeditated murder on Friday for the November 2009 shooting spree against unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
The convictions mean Hasan could face the death penalty, possibly making him the first soldier to be executed by the US military since 1961.
Hasan, seated in a wheelchair as he was paralysed from the waist down when shot by police to end the rampage, stared directly at the jury while the panel’s president read the verdict. Afterward he looked down, stroking his beard.
The jury of 13 officers deliberated for about three hours on Thursday afternoon and another three hours yesterday morning. The same panel will determine Hasan’s sentence after hearing the penalty phase of the court-martial starting on Monday.
Hasan (42) had told mental health evaluators he wanted to become a martyr, court documents show.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim who acted as his own defence lawyer, admitted in his opening statement to killing 13 people and wounding 31, saying he switched sides in what he considered a US war on Islam. He was also charged with attempted premeditated murder on a 32nd person he shot at and missed. Nearly all of the dead and wounded were fellow soldiers.
Beyond the opening admission, the jury rarely heard from Hasan, who declined to make a closing argument on Thursday and rested his case on Wednesday without calling witnesses and without testifying in his own defence.
Prosecutors called 89 witnesses in two weeks of testimony, with many describing in horrific detail the bloodbath in and around a medical building at Fort Hood. It was the worst non-combat attack ever at a US military base.
For Hasan to be eligible for the death penalty, the jury needed to find he killed at least two people, and at least one of those had to be a unanimous premeditated murder conviction.
Hasan opened fire at an area where soldiers were being evaluated before being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, yelling Alluha akbar (“God is greatest” in Arabic), according to several witnesses.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a US- born cleric linked to al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing, praised Hasan as a hero and “a man of conscience”. US intelligence officials say Hasan had sent emails to Awlaki, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2011. The judge, Col Tara Osborn, blocked those emails from being submitted as evidence in the trial.
Prosecutors opted against bringing terrorism charges against Hasan, who at one point during the trial told the judge that his attack was motivated by “an illegal war” and that he had “adequate provocation” to launch the attack on soldiers readying to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. – (Reuters)