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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Former Blackwater mercs sentenced

Blackwater Worldwide security guards Nick Slatten (L), Dustin Heard (C) and Evan Liberty (R). (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files)
Blackwater security guards Nick Slatten (L), Dustin Heard (C) and Evan Liberty (R).
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files)

A former Blackwater security guard was sentenced to life in prison and three others got 30-year terms on Monday in the massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, closing a case that had outraged Iraqis and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment around the world.

The Sept. 16 incident stood out for its brazenness and formed a tense backdrop to talks between the United States and Iraq over the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. It also sparked debate over private security contractors working for the U.S. government in war zones.

The four guards opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers on the Iraqis, including women and children, at Nisur Square. A heavily armed, four-truck Blackwater Worldwide convoy the men were in had been trying to clear a path for U.S. diplomats.

Nicholas Slatten, 31, of Tennessee was convicted in October of killing the driver of a car the defendants had argued at trial they believed contained a bomb.

Paul Slough, 35, of Texas; Evan Liberty, 32, of New Hampshire; and Dustin Heard, 33, of Tennessee, who were convicted of manslaughter, were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, the mandatory minimum they faced.

Momentarily choking up before he passed sentence in front of a packed court room, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said it was an extraordinary case.

“It’s clear these fine young men just panicked,” he said. “But the overall wild thing that went on just cannot be condoned by this court.”

In addition to the killings, 17 Iraqis were injured.

North Carolina-based Blackwater was sold and renamed several times after the incident. It is now called Academi, based in northern Virginia.

U.S. federal prosecutors had called the guards’ action “horrendous” and urged longer sentences for Slough, Liberty and Heard.

In court today, Fatimah Al Fahdwi, whose 9-year-old son was killed, held up a picture of him before the judge.

“Why did you guys do this to me?” she said to the men, breaking down in tears. “Why did you guys kill my son?”

In their statements, all four former guards maintained their innocence.

“I could not and I did not kill your son,” Slough said to the family. “I feel utterly betrayed by the same government I served honorably.”

Lawyers for all four men said they would appeal.


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Copyright  © 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved

3 thoughts on “Former Blackwater mercs sentenced”

  1. I understand that it was a ‘war zone’, but it’s not US territory. How was this trial held in the USA, and not by Iraqi courts?

  2. I agree with Jon…Forgot about these guys and what they’d done….I remember when the story broke, I was wondering if private security guards have the training to deal with a war environment (if they are not ex-veterans who saw action in such theaters)…Well, now they will have a lot of time to think about what they’d done….I hope they begin to take responsibility for their actions and not use Slough’s excuse: “I could not and I did not kill your son,” ….“I feel utterly betrayed by the same government I served honorably.”

  3. It is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they also grind exceedingly fine.

    I’ll grant them slow – I’d nearly forgotten the trial of Blackwater mercenaries was still even continuing – but I won’t grant them ‘fine’. Are their commanding officers on trial? Who trained them, gave them orders, and was responsible if they disobeyed those orders?

    Oh, they grind some fine. But others? Hmmm…. Given appeals and technical legal maneuvering that I somehow suspect is not available to those whose fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children were senselessly massacred one wonders about it.


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