Blackwater guards surrender

Private security guards are accused of the deaths of 17 Iraqis in September 2007.

    The men are all decorated war veterans who were contracted to protect US diplomats in Iraq [AP]

    Though the case has already been assigned to Washington DC, attorneys want the case moved to Utah.

    Any dispute over where the trial should be held would delay proceedings and further frustrate the relatives of the Iraqis killed in Baghdad's al-Nisoor Square in September 2007.

    Identity protected

    The five men's identities and the nature of the charges against them had been kept secret for more than a year, but were also released on Sunday.

    They were named as Evan Liberty and Donald Ball, both 26-year-old former marines,  Dustin Heard, a 27-year-old ex-marine, Nick Slatten, 25, an ex-army sergeant, and Paul Slough, a 29-year-old army veteran.


    Blackwater on trial

    Khalid Ibrahim, a 40-year-old electrician who said his 78-year-old father, Ibrahim Abid, died in the shooting, said: "The killers must pay for their crime against innocent civilians.

    "Justice must be achieved so that we can have rest from the agony we are living in. We know that the conviction of the people behind the shooting will not bring my father to life, but we will have peace in our minds and hearts."

    An Iraqi government spokesman said that they believed that the attack was tantamount to deliberate murder.

    Ali Al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, told Al Jazeera that Baghdad would maintain the victims' right to a fair trial and would not accept anything less than "normal standards available in such cases".

    Decorated veterans

    The Blackwater guards are all decorated war veterans who were contracted to protect US diplomats in Iraq.

    A sixth guard, who has not been named, has reached a plea bargain deal with prosecutors to avoid a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

    FBI investigators found in late 2007 that most of the 17 deaths had been unjustified and the incident created a furore about the perceived ability of private guards to act with impunity in Iraq.

    FBI investigators found that most of the 17 deaths in Baghdad had been unjustified
    Blackwater said that the guards were returning fire after their convoy was shot at in Baghdad's al-Nisoor Square.

    The head of Blackwater appeared before the US Congress shortly after the incident, saying that the men acted responsibly.

    The case has also been complicated because, at the time of the attack, private contractors like Blackwater operated without any clear legal oversight and it could be argued they did not have to answer either to Iraqi or US laws.

    Under the deal Blackwater had with the US government, it was allowed to repair the vehicles involved in the attack before investigators saw them, taking away key forensic evidence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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