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September 25, 2017

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US judge rejects plea of Texas massacre accused

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A U.S. soldier accused of killing 13 people at a Texas Army base tried to plead guilty on Wednesday but the judge refused to accept it and the trial was unexpectedly adjourned until next week.

Major Nidal Hasan, a former army psychiatrist, is accused of carrying out the November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, an attack that raised fears of homegrown extremism and al-Qaida recruitment within the armed forces.

The American of Palestinian heritage tried to plead guilty on 13 counts of premeditated murder, but Colonel Gregory Gross, who is hearing the case, said military law does not allow for guilty pleas in death penalty trials.

Gross entered a not guilty plea instead.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces meanwhile delayed the trial until Monday so it could review a confrontation between the judge and Hasan, who has grown a beard in violation of Army regulations.

Gross has said he wants Hasan to be in court for the trial, and that if he does not shave his beard, soldiers will be ordered to shave it for him.

The U.S. Constitution generally allows the accused to confront witnesses and evidence in trial, but there have been cases where defendants are removed from the courtroom due to unruly behavior.

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