Fort Hood gunman conscious, lawyer ponders over fair trial

November 10th, 2009 - 10:46 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 10 (IANS) As American authorities probed Thursday’s mass shooting at the Fort Hood Army Post in Texas that left 13 dead and 42 wounded, the lone suspect was reported to be conscious and talking.

The suspected shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old licensed Army psychiatrist who worked at a hospital at the post, was shot several times after the attack.

Hasan’s ventilator was removed over the weekend, and he began talking afterward, according to a spokesman for Brooke Army Medical Centre in San Antonio, Texas, where he is being treated.

Hospital spokesman Dewey Mitchell told CNN that he was speaking with hospital staff, but was unable to say whether Hasan has been speaking with army investigators.

But the Washington Post said that John P. Galligan of Texas, hired by Hasan’s family Monday as his civilian lawyer, has asked investigators not to question the army major.

Galligan, a retired army colonel who now specialises in military law, questioned whether Hasan could get a fair trial in either criminal or military court given President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the base Tuesday for a memorial service and public comments by the post commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone.

Meanwhile, Obama told ABC News that investigators were reviewing Hasan’s actions.

“We are going to complete this investigation and we are going to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” he was quoted as saying.

“I think the questions that we’re asking now and we don’t have yet complete answers to is, is this an individual who’s acting in this way or is it some larger set of actors? You know, what are the motivations? Those are all questions that I think we have to ask ourselves,” the president said.

Investigators from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been waiting to question Hasan as they try to establish a motive for the shooting and determine whether the suspect had any assistance or instigation from anyone else.

According to the Post, the investigators are also said to be looking into possible links between Hasan and Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American-born Muslim prayer leader who preached at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church in Virginia when Hasan was attending it in 2001.

US authorities say Aulaqi, who left the US in 2002 and settled in Yemen, has become a supporter and leading promoter of Al Qaeda.

In a blog posting Monday, Aulaqi called Hasan “a hero” and a “man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people”.

He praised “the virtue” of the Fort Hood shooting and said the only way a Muslim could justify serving in the US Army was if he intended to “follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal”.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in )

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