HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in a 2009 killing rampage at a Texas military base will face a court-martial where he could be sentenced to death, a military official ruled on Wednesday.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, 40, who U.S. officials have linked to a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen, is charged in the Fort Hood shootings killed 13 people and wounded 32 others.
Lieutenant General Donald Campbell, Fort Hood’s commander, referred Hasan’s case to a general court martial which “is authorized to consider death as an authorized punishment,” according to a statement issued by Fort Hood.
A date has not been set for the court martial, the statement said. The first likely step would be for a military judge to inform Hasan of his rights at an arraignment, it said.
John Galligan, Hasan’s lead attorney, declined to comment on whether Hasan will pursue an insanity plea for his defense.
“This thing has been choreographed a long time ago,” Galligan said. “We’re just seeing the various events play out.”
According to witnesses who testified at evidentiary hearings at Fort Hood in 2010, Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” -- Arabic for “God is Greatest” -- just before opening fire on a group of soldiers undergoing health checks before being deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hasan is confined to a wheelchair after he was paralyzed from the chest down by bullet wounds inflicted by civilian police officers during the November 5, 2009 shooting.
The incident has raised concerns over the threat of “home-grown” militant attacks. U.S. officials said Hasan had exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an anti-American al Qaeda figure based in Yemen.
Fort Hood is a major deployment point for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Editing by Sandra Maler and David Storey