In a heavily protected courtroom on the same army base where he opened fire nearly four years ago, killing 13 people and injuring 32 others, Nidal Hasan said he had found himself on the “wrong side” in a war between the US and the Muslim world and had changed his allegiances.
Acting as his own lawyer, Hasan, a former Major and army psychiatrist who at the time of the killings was days away from being deployed to Afghanistan, gave an opening statement of just two minutes.
“Witnesses will testify that war is an ugly thing,” he told his court martial at Fort Hood. “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.”
Kicking off a long-delayed trial that is likely to last for weeks, the prosecution said in its opening statement that when Hasan, now 42, opened fire in a pre-deployment facility at the army base near Killeen Texas, where some of his fellow soldiers were receiving vaccinations in November 2009, he wanted to kill indiscriminately.
“Evidence will show that Hasan didn’t want to deploy [to Afghanistan] and he possessed a jihad duty to kill as many soldiers as possible,” said Colonel Michael Mulliga, the military prosecutor.
While the government will call numerous witnesses, Hasan plans to bring just two to the stand. He faces 13 counts of premeditated murder. If the jury of 13 officers, including several colonels, is unanimous in delivering guilty verdicts, he could face the death penalty.
Hasan, who has never denied being the gunman, is likely to cross-examine survivors of the massacre who have been called as prosecution witnesses. “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” conceded Hasan, a Muslim American who was born in Arlington County, Virginia, to Palestinian parents who had emigrated from the West Bank. He added that it would also show “that we are imperfect Muslims trying to establish the perfect religion… I apologise for any mistakes I made in this endeavour”.