FORT HOOD, Texas -- The U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in a deadly shooting rampage told a judge Thursday that he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, not as a show of disrespect.
Maj. Nidal Hasan spoke in court for the first time since showing up with a beard in violation of Army regulations in June. The judge, Col. Gregory Gross, has threatened to have him forcibly shaved. His lawyers argue that shaving would violate his religious freedoms.
"In the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim," Hasan said. "I believe my religion requires me to wear a beard."
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the November 2009 attack that killed 13 and wounded more than two dozen at a Texas Army post.
The pretrial hearing was the first since a military appeals court stopped proceedings Aug. 15 to consider the dispute over Hasan's beard. Gross held Hasan in contempt of court and fined him $1,000 for a sixth time Thursday, again sending him to a nearby room to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.
"I am not trying to disrespect your authority as a judge," Hasan said before his latest removal.
"When I stand before God, I am individually responsible for my actions," he said, apparently referring to the beard.
But Gross said he will order a forcible shaving next week. According to military regulations, soldiers who disobey orders to be clean-shaven can be forcibly shaved.
Gross has said he wants Hasan in the courtroom during the court-martial to prevent a possible appeal over the beard if Hasan is convicted.
An order for forcible shaving will delay the case again because Hasan's attorneys can appeal before a decision is made on whether he'll be forcibly shaved, the judge said.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Hasan's appeal was premature because Gross has not issued a definitive order for Hasan to be forcibly shaved.
Hasan's attorneys have said Hasan wouldn't shave because he had a premonition that his death is imminent, and doesn't want to die beardless because he believes not having one is a sin.
Prosecutors have said they don't believe that religion is Hasan's motive, noting he was clean-shaven at the time of the shootings.
Hasan is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police on the day of the rampage, but he appears to have full use of his arms.