Guards working for Blackwater Security Consulting were involved in a shooting incident in Baghdad in 2007, which resulted in the deaths of 14 Iraqis, with another 18 wounded.
The shootings occurred when the Blackwater guards were clearing the way for a convoy of officials working for the U.S. State Department.
The Guards claimed that the convoy was ambushed and that the shootings were necessary to defend the personnel in the convoy.
Now, U.S. prosecutors want to introduce new evidence at the forthcoming trial of the Blackwater guards scheduled for early in June. They accuse the guards of harboring a deep hostility towards the Iraqi civilian population in general in the year preceding the shooting.
Four Blackwater guards face charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations for the shootings at Nisoor Square in Baghdad on September 16 2007.
Justice Department prosecutors are seeking permission to introduce appropriate evidence that will establish the defendants' motivation at the time of the Nisoor Square shootings.
The filing states:
"In the year leading up to the events of Sept. 16, 2007, several of the defendants harbored a low regard for and deep hostility toward the Iraqi civilian population, which they openly expressed to other Blackwater personnel and exhibited through their deliberately reckless actions.In their defense, the guards say that they believed they were under hostile fire at the time.
This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.... but rather that they unreasonably and recklessly fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their low regard for and hostility toward Iraqis."
The incident evoked fury at the time and sparked off at least five investigations. The Blackwater personnel were originally charged in September 2008.
But, in December 2009, A U.S. district judge dismissed all the charges on the grounds that the case against Blackwater was improper because it relied on evidence given in exchange for immunity.
However, in 2011, a U,S, Federal appeals court re-instated the charges against four of the defendants.
Now, the prosecution alleges that Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten said he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as "payback for 9/11." He was said to have repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot, including an old Iraqi woman who had a knife in her hand.
The allegation also states that Slatten deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed Blackwater personnel in Iraq.
The defendant, Evan Liberty, is alleged to have fired his automatic weapon from the turret of a Blackwater armored vehicle without aiming the weapon, and without regard for who might be struck by the rounds.
Defendant Paul Slough is also alleged to have engaged in similar activity the months before the Nisoor Square shootings, the court filing added. No details have emerged regarding the fourth defendant, Donald Ball.
Are the charges relating to the Blackwater shootings valid? Is the incident just an example of what can happen in "the fog of war"? Or is this simply an attempt to placate Iraqi anger, and find a scapegoat?
What do you think? There's a comments feed below where you can sound off.