Blackwater on trial over killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007
Wednesday 11 June 2014 10.17 EDT
Blackwater founder Erik Prince declared: “I believe we acted appropriately at all times.” The Nisoor Square shootings spelled the death knell for his company. Formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, the company is under new ownership and Prince is no longer affiliated with it. The company was sold to a group of investors who changed the name to Academi.
In 2009, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed the case against the Blackwater guards. From the Iraqi government’s perspective, the dismissal was an example of Americans acting above the law. Urbina said government lawyers ignored the advice of senior Justice Department officials by building the criminal case on sworn statements of the guards given under a grant of immunity – meaning the guards’ own statements could not be used against them.
Two years later, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived the prosecution, ruling that Urbina had wrongly interpreted the law. The decision gave the Justice Department another chance.
In the upcoming trial, one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten, is charged with first-degree murder. The other three guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – are charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges. Slatten could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, while the other guards face a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years in prison if a defendant is convicted of the gun charge and at least one other charge.