US Judge dimisses charges in Blackwater Iraq Killings
A US federal judge has dismissed all charges against five guards from US security firm Blackwater over the killing of 17 Iraqis in 2007.
The five, contracted to defend US diplomatic personnel, were accused of opening fire on a crowd in Baghdad.
District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US justice department had used evidence prosecutors were not supposed to have.
The five had all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. A sixth guard admitted killing at least one Iraqi.
The killings, which took place in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, strained Iraq’s relationship with the US and raised questions about US contractors operating in war zones.
Lawyers for the five guards say they were acting in self-defence, but witnesses and family members of those killed maintain that the shooting on 16 September 2007 was unprovoked.
The disputed evidence concerned statements the guards gave to state department investigators, which they were told would not be used to bring a criminal case.
This limited immunity deal meant that prosecutors should have built their case against the men without using the statements.
But Judge Urbina said prosecutors had failed to do so, and that the US government’s explanation for this was “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility”.
Justice department spokesman Dean Boyd told the Associated Press news agency: “We’re obviously disappointed by the decision. We’re still in the process of reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”
The five guards were Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough – all of whom are decorated military veterans.
As well as the 14 counts of manslaughter, they had faced 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.
A sixth Blackwater employee, Jeremy Ridgeway, had agreed to a plea deal in return for testifying against his colleagues.
No comments yet.