A US federal jury has found three American former Blackwater guards guilty of manslaughter and weapons charges and a fourth of murder in connection with the 2007 killing of 14 unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad.
The decision in Washington on Wednesday closes an emotional chapter in a case that outraged Iraqis, inflamed anti-American sentiment across the globe and touched off debate over the role of private security contractors working for the US government in war zones, according to Reuters.
A court clerk read the jury’s verdict to a packed courtroom after a two-month trial and more than seven weeks of deliberations. The defendants sat and listened silently.
Paul Slough, 35, Dustin Heard, 33, and Evan Liberty, 32, were convicted of voluntary manslaughter in connection with at least 12 deaths at Nisur Square, where a heavily armed four-truck Blackwater Worldwide convoy had been trying to clear a path for US diplomats.
The jury also found the three guilty of attempted manslaughter in connection with the wounding of at least 11 Iraqis. They face at least 30 years in prison.
A fourth guard, Nicholas Slatten, 30, was convicted of murder in connection with the first death at the traffic circle and faces a life sentence.
The massacre on Sept. 16, 2007, stood out for its brazenness, even during a war replete with grisly incidents, and formed a tense backdrop to talks between the United States and Iraq over the rules governing the continued presence of American forces in Iraq.
“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” said Washington US attorney Ronald Machen, whose office prosecuted the case.
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