Opening Statements In Trial Of Fort Hood Shooter Make Clear His Intention Was Holy War

Allowing the case to go to trial meant that since Hassan is representing himself, he gets to grill the witnesses, some of whom are his own victims.Image @ NBC DFW

Allowing the case to go to trial meant that since Hassan is representing himself, he gets to grill the witnesses, some of whom are his own victims. Image @ NBC DFW

The trial of Nidal Hassan, the Army psychiatrist who has admitted to killing 13 and injuring 32 in a rampage on Fort Hood, Texas, has finally started.

Hassan, who is representing himself after firing his defense team twice, started by making it clear, once and for all, on the record, that his act was, indeed, intended as an act of combat in a holy war.

“Witnesses will testify that war is an ugly thing. Death, destruction and devastation are felt from both sides, from friend and foe. Evidence from this trial will only show one side. I was on the wrong side, but I switched sides.”

Hassan went on to say that he apologized for “any mistakes” made while trying to help fellow Muslims create a “perfect religion,” and that the “evidence will clearly show that [he is] the shooter.”

Prosecutors also touched on the belief that the shooting was an act of terror in their opening statements, in which Colonel Steve Hendricks stated that Hassan yelled “Allahu akbar,” an Arabic phrase meaning ‘God is great,’ before opening fire in the crowded processing center.

“Evidence will show that Hasan didn’t want to deploy and he possessed a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible.”

Further, the judge in the case ruled in a pre-trial hearing that prosecutors can introduce evidence pertaining to Hassan’s web searches for such culturally loaded keywords such as “Taliban” and “jihad.”

All of this is important to note because, thus far, the victims and families of those affected by the massacre have been unable to claim benefits that would be theirs if the incident were given the status of combat or terror related. As of now, it is classified as workplace violence. This keeps the families from being able to claim things such as additional pay, medical benefits, and, if applicable, Purple Hearts. One victim, retired Army Specialist Logan Burnett, told NBC news of his anger that while his family has gone without being able to afford food or gas, Hassan has continued to receive his pay as per the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Burnett, who was shot three times, had to undergo multiple surgeries after the attack, and now suffers from PTSD.

The FBI has confirmed that Hassan was in contact with al Qaeda prior to the shooting. The National Counterterrorism Center lists the incident as a “high fatality terrorist attack.” The statements given in court with the trial’s commencement only serve as further evidence that the designation of the event must be changed to ensure that the families affected receive their full entitlements under the law.

While Hassan tried to plead guilty to the charges leveled against him, his plea was blocked since it would have taken the death penalty off the table. The only way to pursue a death penalty, which many feel is the only appropriate punishment, was to take it to trial. Allowing the case to go to trial, however, means that since Hassan is representing himself, he gets to grill the witnesses, some of whom are his own victims. It is important to note that the death penalty is rarely carried out in the military justice system because of the complicated appeals process that comes with it. These appeals can take decades.

The likelihood is that those affected will never really see justice.