A military appeals court has removed the judge who had been overseeing accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan's court-martial, saying the judge was biased.
The ruling makes Col. Gregory Gross' order for Hasan's beard to be shaved invalid. Hasan has objected to the order with various appeals, citing religious freedom.
"We order the removal of the military judge on the basis of the appearance of bias," the court document states.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces faulted Gross with allowing the proceedings to become a "duel of wills" between him and Hasan rather than focusing on the serious crimes with which Hasan is charged.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with 13 counts of murder in connection with the November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, the sprawling Army post in central Texas.
The court, however, did not rule on the beard issue directly and left open the possibility that a future judge may order Hasan shaved.
"Should the next military judge find it necessary to address Appellant's beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew," the document states.
Army regulations prevent most soldiers from wearing facial hair while in uniform. Hasan, a practicing Muslim, maintains that he has the right to wear the beard under federal law protecting religious rights.
The high-level appeals court is an independent tribunal with worldwide jurisdiction over active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces and others subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.