September 6, 2019 / 11:34 AM / 3 months ago

Three ex-Blackwater guards get new sentences in Iraq War massacre - NYT

(Reuters) - Three former private security guards for the former security firm Blackwater were given new sentences on Thursday by a federal court for convictions in the 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians at a traffic stop, a case that outraged Iraqis, the New York Times reported.

The ex-guards, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough, were convicted in 2014 of multiple counts of manslaughter for their roles in the massacre and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But in 2017, a federal appeals court ordered that the three Blackwater guards to be resentenced, saying their 30-year terms were too long.

The federal district court for the District of Columbia resentenced the men on Thursday, ordering Slough to serve 15 years, Liberty to serve 14 years and Heard to serve 12 years, the Times reported on Thursday

The former guards, along with a fourth security contractor, Nicholas Slatten, who was given a second-trial separately, all maintained their innocence.

Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder in December 2018 in the case, where prosecutors argued he fired first. Last month he was sentenced to life in prison.

Neither lawyers for the defendants nor prosecutors were immediately available for comment early on Friday.

The shooting stood out for its brutality even in the city in the grips of a bitter sectarian war, and sparked debate over the role of private security contractors working for the U.S. government in war zones.

The guards were travelling in a heavily armed, four-truck Blackwater Worldwide convoy and had been trying to clear a path for U.S. diplomats after a nearby car bomb.

At Nisur Square, they opened fire on Iraqis, including women and children, with machine guns and grenade launchers.

The U.S. Justice Department has long pursued accountability for the Nisur Square shooting.

Blackwater, which was founded by a former Navy SEAL, was later sold and now operates as Virginia-based Academi.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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