By Michael Hernandez
A U.S. federal jury found four former employees of security firm Blackwater guilty of crimes related to the shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in the Iraqi capital.
Following a 10 week trial, the Washington-based jury deliberated for more than 25 days on 33 separate counts related to the Sept. 16, 2007 shootings of 31 people in Baghdad's Nisur Square. Fourteen were killed and at least 17 others injured in the shootings.
The State Department contracted Blackwater to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq. Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the U.S. "respects the court's decision" following the announcement of the verdict, and said the department worked to improve its own policies following the shootings.
"Following the tragedy there, the Department took a number of steps to strengthen oversight of private security contractors, such as moving quickly to improve investigative policies and strengthening procedures for use of force and less than lethal force by security contractors," she said.
The incident prompted international uproar over the use of private military contractors in combat zones.
Disagreement over the alleged facts of the case centered around whether or not the guards had come under fire prior to firing on Nisur Square. While the defense emphasized that the accused were acting in self defense, the prosecution dismissed the claims.
Nicholas Slatten was found guilt Wednesday of first-degree murder, while three others -- Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty -- were found guilty of voluntary and attempted manslaughter. The three were also found guilty of using military firearms while committing a felony.
Slatten faces life in prison. The other three face a minimum of 30 years behind bars.
A federal judge ordered all four immediately to jail, but still has to hand down sentencing.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.