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Jury selection moves forward in Fort Hood shooting trial

U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan (C), accused of killing 13 soldiers in a 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, is seen in a courtroom sketch as he si
U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan (C), accused of killing 13 soldiers in a 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, is seen in a courtroom sketch as he si

By Don Bolding

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - Jury selection progressed on Wednesday in the murder trial of an Army Major accused of killing 13 U.S. soldiers at a Texas base in 2009.

Ten Army officers were chosen by the end of the day of the 13 to 16 expected to form the jury in the court martial of Major Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted.

Hasan, an American-born Muslim who is defending himself, asked one of the prospective jurors his opinion about the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The prospective juror said he viewed the Taliban as part political and social, conservative, tribal, strict and intolerant.

Another potential juror who said he was at the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001, attacks, was asked by Hasan his opinion about Sharia or Islamic law. The colonel said he did not see Sharia law as aligned with democratic principles.

It was not clear if the two officers questioned about the Taliban and Sharia were selected for the jury.

Hasan has said that he opened fire at the base on November 5, 2009 to protect Muslims and the Taliban in Afghanistan from U.S. aggression. He was shot by civilian base police during the attack and is paralyzed from the chest down.

Fort Hood was a major deployment point for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack happened at a readiness facility where soldiers prepare to be deployed and Hasan himself was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan with a unit assigned to help soldiers deal with mental health issues.

The case, which has been delayed by unusual turns including arguments over whether Hasan could keep a beard against Army regulations and represent himself, is advancing toward opening statements now set for no earlier than August 6.

Hasan and prosecutors questioned officers individually on Wednesday. Afterward, the military judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, said that 10 had been selected for the panel.

The jury will decide whether Hasan is guilty of premeditated murder and premeditated attempted murder in the shooting that left 13 people dead and 32 wounded.

Osborn said court would resume on Monday to select the remaining jurors, all of whom must be of superior rank to Hasan. The names of the selected officers, who were excused from court until August 6, were not released.

Osborn has allowed Hasan to wear the beard for religious reasons. He has been allowed to wear a combat camouflage uniform, rather than a dress uniform, for medical reasons.

Witnesses say he shouted in Arabic "God is greatest" while firing the gun in 2009. He has told the court he spends hours reading the Koran in his cell every day.

If he gets the death penalty, Hasan would go to the military version of Death Row, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The last court martial execution in the United States was in 1961. Hasan could also be sentenced to life without parole, or be found guilty on lesser charges.

(Reporting by Dan Bolding at Fort Hood; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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