Blackwater guards found guilty for role in 2007 Iraq massacre

By Chantal Valery, AFP

WASHINGTON–Four former Blackwater security guards were found guilty Wednesday for their roles in a notorious 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad that left at least 14 civilians dead and deepened resentment of America’s involvement in Iraq. The four ex-employees of the U.S. private security firm were convicted on an array of charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter. Their convictions followed a two-month trial that heard how they opened fire with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers in Baghdad’s bustling Nisour Square as they escorted a diplomatic convoy. The federal court jury in Washington found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. A mistrial was declared in relation to certain counts against Heard. ��This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,�� U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. ��Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children,�� he said. ‘Outrageous attack, massacre’

��Today they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families,�� Machen added.

��I pray that this verdict will bring some sense of comfort to the survivors of that massacre.�� The four men were ordered detained in custody ahead of their sentencing, which is yet to be fixed. Lawyers said they would appeal. ��The verdict is wrong, incomprehensible, we’re devastated but we’re gonna fight every step of the way, we still think we’re gonna win, we’re gonna appeal,�� David Schertler, defense attorney for Dustin Heard, said. Slatten, 32, faces a possible life sentence for his first degree murder conviction. Before the killings, Slatten allegedly told acquaintances he wanted to ��kill as many Iraqis as he could as ‘payback for 9/11,’�� according to court documents. Slatten’s three co-accused face a minimum of 15 years behind bars for each killing. Slough, 35, was convicted of 13 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 17 charges of attempted murder. Liberty, 32, was found guilty of eight charges of voluntary manslaughter and 12 attempted murders. Heard, 33, was convicted of six voluntary manslaughter charges and 11 attempted murders. ‘Bullet-riddled corpses’