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Fort Hood shooting suspect can be forcibly shaved, US court rules

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This undated file photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department via The Temple Daily Telegram shows Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.AP/Bell County Sheriff's Department

A U.S. Army appeals court ruled Thursday that the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 people can have his beard forcibly shaved off before his murder trial.

The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals' opinion issued Thursday upheld the military trial judge's decision to order Maj. Nidal Hasan to appear in court clean shaven or be forcibly shaved, according to a release from Fort Hood.

Hasan has said he grew a beard because his Muslim faith requires it, despite the Army's ban on beards.

The court also ruled that Col. Gregory Gross, the trial judge, properly found that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not give Hasan the right to have a beard while in uniform at trial. The court specifically upheld Gross' previous ruling that Hasan did not prove his beard was an expression of a sincerely held religious belief. The appeals court said that even if Hasan did grow a beard for a sincere religious reason, compelling government interests justified Gross' order requiring Hasan to comply with Army grooming standards.

The appeals court also upheld previous contempt of court findings against Hasan. Starting in June, he showed up to court for pretrial hearings with a beard six times, and was fined $1,000 for each instance.

Hasan's attorneys have said they will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which means Hasan's court-martial remains on hold.

Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post that killed 13 and wounded more than two dozen others.