Five Blackwater guards to face Washington jury on Baghdad manslaughter charges
None of the Iraqis killed in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007, was armed.
A federal judge on Monday ordered five employees of Blackwater Worldwide to report to a Washington court in January to face charges related to the deaths of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians on a busy Baghdad street on Sept.16, 2007.Skip to next paragraph
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Fourteen Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed in a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade shooting spree by the hired guards, say federal prosecutors. A further 20 civilians were injured, reports the Associated Press (AP).
The Washington order came hours after prosecutors announced the charges against the men, including one with a mandatory 30-year sentence, and after weeks in which defense attorneys have sought to move the trial to Salt Lake City.
The AP reports that defense lawyers wanted the trial to proceed in Utah, home of one of the men, Donald Ball, "in hopes of appealing to conservative jurors who may be more sympathetic to the war in Iraq than those in Washington."
Donald Ball's big-city lawyers really like Utah.
The hotels and international airport are so convenient. And our uber-patriotic support for the Iraq war and anything-goes gun laws also appeal.
So the Utahphiles figured Ball, one of six disgraced Blackwater guards accused of mowing down a crowd of unarmed Iraqis last year, had a better chance of getting off here than just about anywhere else in America.
But the Justice Department moved to hold the trial in Washington, where one former guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a deal with prosecutors, the AP reports. The federal judge in Salt Lake City agreed.
They traveled to Baghdad's Nisoor Square to investigate reports of an improvised explosive device and set up a checkpoint to slow the flow of traffic. Seconds later, the team opened fire on an approaching Kia sedan which "failed to come to a complete stop," the paper reports.
Ridgeway said he and other members of the Blackwater team pumped hundreds of machine-gun rounds into the Kia, killing its occupants, a second-year medical student named Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y and his mother, a doctor, who was sitting in the passenger seat.
Minutes later, Ridgeway said, the Blackwater convoy departed Nisoor Square against the flow of traffic, and turret gunners in the convoy "continued to fire their machine guns at civilian vehicles that posed no threat to the convoy."