For years, PeacePundit has been following the controversy surrounding the contract security firm Blackwater Worldwide (later renamed Xe Services and then Academi) including accusations that Blackwater guards killed 17 unarmed civilians in an unprovoked attack in Iraq.
The case has been in the US courts for years, and finally has been decided: One Blackwater employee was found guilty of murder of several civilians, and three other employees were found guilty of manslaughter. All face lengthy prison sentences.
Below are excerpts from a news report of the court decision.
All 4 Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Shootings
Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.
A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences …
The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.
But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.
Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men … guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.
The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty, and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence.
Prosecutors had claimed Slatten, the convoy’s sniper, viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11” and often “deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles” or tried to smash windscreens of passing cars as his convoy rolled through Baghdad.
Jeremy Ridgeway, another member of the convoy known as Raven 23, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2008 and agreed to testify against his colleagues in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
Prosecutors told the jury that Slatten triggered the incident by shooting the occupants of a civilian car during a traffic jam at a busy roundabout in Baghdad. As the car rolled forward, other members of the convoy of three armoured vehicles opened fire indiscriminately with heavy weapons claiming they thought they were under attack from an attempted car bombing.
Blackwater –- renamed first Xe Services and then Academi after the incident saw it thrown out of Iraq and dubbed a mercenary force by a United Nations report –- reached a civilian settlement on behalf of six of the victims in 2012 and paid an undisclosed sum in compensation.
[T]he first attempt to bring the case to trial was thrown out by a judge after it emerged that State Department investigators had promised the defendants that statements made after the attack and leaked to the media would not be used against them in court.
[V]ice-president Joe Biden promised the US would pursue a fresh prosecution … and an appeal court later ruled these errors in witness interviews did not … prevent a trial.
Related Peace Pundit Posts
- Xe/Blackwater Gets CIA and State Dept Contracts in Afghanistan
- US Judge Dismisses Blackwater Nisoor Square Shooting Case
- Blackwater (Xe) Faces More Accusations of Wrongdoing
- Blackwater Nisoor Square Shooting Case on Trial
- Blackwater in the News
- Evidence Mounts that Blackwater Shot First in Nisoor Square