By Karen Brooks
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Proceedings may resume in the court martial of alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan, a military court ruled on Monday, less than a week after it stopped the trial to consider whether Hasan's beard could be forcibly shaved.
The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces did not say whether Colonel Gregory Gross, the military trial judge, could order Hasan shaved.
Gross has threatened to have Hasan shaved if he does not get rid of the beard himself before his next court appearance, saying the beard breaks Army regulations.
The decision on Monday simply allows hearings in the case to go forward for now without a resolution of the beard issue. No new hearing dates have been set yet in the case, which was to go to trial before a military jury on August 20.
Hasan, a practicing Muslim, is accused of opening fire at a deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shooting at the sprawling Central Texas complex.
He faces the death penalty if convicted of murder. Hasan has grown a beard in preparation for his death, which he believes is "imminent," attorneys said.
Hasan's attorneys said the beard is an expression of his religious beliefs. Hasan has repeatedly been ordered removed from the courtroom because of the beard. He has been held in contempt of court five times and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
Last week, Gross appeared ready to order soldiers to forcibly shave Hasan, but the Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces halted the proceedings, saying it would decide whether Gross has the authority to compel Hasan to be clean-shaven.
The Court of Appeal previously rejected Hasan's request that he be granted a "religious accommodation" to wear a beard. Such an exemption has been granted to some men who follow the Sikh faith, which requires men to wear beards.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)