(KILLEEN, Texas) — Calling himself a “mujahedeen,” or Muslim holy warrior, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychologist accused of a shooting rampage that left 13 people dead at Ft. Hood in Texas, made a brief opening statement at the start of his dramatic court martial, in which the accused gunman is expected to question victims of the attack.
Hasan, who was left paralyzed after police, responding to the deadliest shooting on a U.S. military installation ever, shot him in the back, is representing himself. “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” he said.
“We Mujahedeen are imperfect soldiers trying to form a perfect religion. I apologize for any mistakes I made in this endeavor,” said Hasan.
The gunman has never denied entering the fort’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center, a busy building where unarmed soldiers were getting ready for upcoming deployments to Afghanistan, shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and opening fire.
During the trial at Ft. Hood, he is expected to cross-examine some of the more than 30 people injured in the 2009 shooting spree.
Prosecutors accused Hasan of wanting to kill Americans as part of a plan to conduct a Muslim holy war or jihad.
“He didn’t want to deploy and he came to believe he had a jihad duty to murder soldiers,” said Col. Steve Henricks. He wanted to “kill as many soldiers as he could.”
The trial, which is estimated to have cost the federal government $5 million, opened under heavy security. Armed guards ring the courthouse, surrounded by a fence of metal shipping containers stacked three high, and specially constructed sand-filled barriers.
Hasan, who is wheelchair bound, was flown to the fort by helicopter from the nearby Bell County Jail. He must take a 15 minute break to stretch about every four hours, and has to lift himself off his wheelchair for about a minute every half hour to avoid developing sores.
Judge Col. Tara Osborn told a jury of 12 Army officers that the trial could take months to complete.
If found guilty, Hasan faces the death penalty. The court would not allow him to plead guilty, automatically avoiding trial and subsequently the possibility of a death sentence.
The military has not executed an active duty U.S. serviceman since 1961.
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