Former Blackwater guards sentenced for 2007 killing of Iraqi civilians

Dustin Heard's wife, Kelli, center, holds a photograph of him and his two children as she stands with other family members, friends, and supporters of four former Blackwater security guards during a press conference outside the Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, Monday, April 13, 2015, following sentencing for a 2007 shooting of civilians in Iraq. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Nicholas Slatten to life in prison while Paul Slough of Keller, Texas, Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H., and Dustin Heard of Knoxville, Tenn., were convicted of manslaughter and received sentences of 30 years plus one day. Also pictured is Stacey Heard, Dustin Heard's father, at left. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

During the trial, prosecutors said Slatten viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11”. No connection between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the attacks of September 11 2001 has ever been proved.

“These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings,” said Anthony Asuncion, the lead attorney for the prosecution. “They were turned into bloody bullet-ridden corpses at the hands of these men.”

In his closing argument, Asuncion added that it “must have seemed like the apocalypse was here”. One witness told the court that the attack was “the most horrible botched thing I have ever seen in my life”.

Getting to this point was a long, protracted legal journey.

The first time the case was brought to trial in 2009 it was thrown out by a federal judge after a judge found statements from the defendants to have been compelled, and were therefore impermissible in court.

But Vice-President Joe Biden promised during a trip to Iraq that the government would pursue a fresh prosecution, and an appellate court ruled that the errors made by the investigators did not rule out a prosecution.

Defense lawyers say they will appeal the convictions.

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