, United States, Aug 29 – A military jury has sentenced a US Army officer to death for carrying out an Al-Qaeda inspired mass shooting on the Fort Hood base in Texas that left 13 dead.
After a short deliberation, the forewoman of a jury of military officers said it was their unanimous verdict that 42-year-old Major Nidal Hasan should be executed.
“It is my duty as president of this jury to inform you that… the court martial in closed session in a secret ballot of all members concurs to the sentences, to forfeit all pay and allowances, to dismissal from service, to be put to death,” said the forewoman, a colonel.
Hasan, who elected to conduct his own defense during the trial but who called no witnesses and gave no testimony, sat in his wheelchair staring ahead of himself as the verdict was read.
Under US military justice, death penalty verdicts are automatically reviewed under an appeals procedure that could take years.
It can then be appealed through the civilians courts, and any execution would have to be approved by the US president.
Death penalty verdicts are often overturned, and no soldier has been executed since 1961.
Hasan has nevertheless made no attempt to deny the charges and court appointed defense attorneys had expressed concern that he is seeking execution.
The US-born Muslim of Palestinian descent is the first member of the army to receive a death sentence since the 2005 conviction of Hasan Akbar, who killed two in an attack on fellow soldiers in Kuwait in 2003.
On November 5, 2009, Hasan opened fire at a medical facility in the sprawling Fort Hood base in Texas that serves as a staging point for soldiers to deploy to combat zones.
Twelve of the dead and 30 of the wounded were soldiers. Hasan was himself shot by a civilian police officer who responded to the attack and he is now partially paralyzed.
The court had heard that Hasan was opposed to the US military’s occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he had spoken online with an alleged Al-Qaeda figure, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen subsequently killed in a US drone strike in Yemen.
Following the sentence, Hasan was rushed quickly out of the military courtroom, which is in Fort Hood, to be transported back to a local civilian jail where he has been held for more than three years.
He is to be taken to military death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to await execution.
Seven relatives of victims slain in the shooting held back tears during the sentencing after repeatedly being warned not to not make any public declarations of support or opposition to the sentence.
“We are thankful for the just verdict that has finally been rendered. However, we are also dissatisfied with the media attention to Hasan and his extremist views,” Melissa Czemerda, daughter of Hasan’s victim Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman, said after the hearing.
“These types of murderers thrive on media attention. It promotes violence from other disturbed individuals seeking a platform for their sick and twisted views.”
Former Fort Hood police officer Sergeant Kimberly Munley, who was wounded in a gun battle with Hasan, immediately took to Twitter to welcome the sentence.
“He will wither away to nothing in his jail cell while waiting on the appellate courts!” she wrote
And Teena Nemelka, mother of slain Private First Class Aaron Nemelka, said: “We have all heard that Hasan believes with the death penalty that we will be seen as a martyr, but I feel that he is a coward, a traitor and a murderer.”