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US Appeals Court Tosses Ex-Blackwater Guard's Conviction In 2007 Baghdad Massacre

US Appeals Court Tosses Ex-Blackwater Guard's Conviction In 2007 Baghdad Massacre

The court also ordered new sentences for the three other contractors, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard.

The three-judge panel also ordered three of Slatten's former colleagues to be re-sentenced in the prosecution arising from the massacre.

The court ruled a lower court "abused its discretion" when it prevented Nicholas Slatten from being tried separately from three other co-defendants, saying it is overturning "his conviction and remands for a new trial".

But the statements made by the unnamed co-defendant immediately afterwards that he fired the first shot "strike at the heart of that theory and instead point to the co-defendant, not Slatten", the court said. On September 16, 2007 they were involved in a shooting that trained strained worldwide relations and drew scrutiny to the role of American contractors in war-torn Iraq. They were charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows the U.S. government to prosecute individuals for alleged criminal activity overseas who are employed by or otherwise supporting the armed forces.

A spokesman for the USA attorney's office in Washington said prosecutors were still reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. Spokesmen for the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said Phillips's office "is reviewing the opinion and has no further comment at this time".

Prosecutors accused the men of illegally unleashed "powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children". They were all jailed for 30 years.

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"The jury rejected these defendants' claim that they fired in self-defense, and far more of their fellow security guards chose not to fire their weapons at all that day", she said.

All four men was convicted in October 2014. One of the group, known as Raven 23, falsely claimed the convoy was under threat from a auto bomb, prompting a barrage of indiscriminate gun and grenade fire that led to at least 31 Iraqi civilians being killed or wounded.

During the 10-week trial in 2014, no witness testified they saw the guards come under fire, nor was evidence found that AK-47 rifles carried by Iraqi insurgents were used at the time.

The private contractors had opened fire to clear the way for a USA convoy.

"In reaching this conclusion, we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty's actions", said U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, writing for the court.

Blackwater, which became well-known after the 2007 shooting, was renamed Xe Services in 2009 and Academi in 2011.


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