Four guards who formerly worked for private US security firm Blackwater have received from 30 years to life in prison. They were convicted last October of having killed 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
A federal judge sentenced four former Blackwater security guards to lengthy prison stays on Monday for their involvement in a 2007 massacre that killed 14 unarmed Iraqis and injured a further 17.
Nicholas Slatten was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shooting at a Baghdad traffic circle, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were each sentenced to 30 years and 1 day for charges including manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using firearms while committing a felony. They were convicted in October after a legal fight that went on for years.
The four guards fired machine guns and grenade launchers at civilians, including women and children, on September 16, 2007. A heavily armed Blackwater Worldwide convoy had been trying to clear a path through Nisoor Square for diplomats.
Mohammad Kinani Al-Razzaq spoke of the death of his 9-year-old son as a picture of the boy, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, was shown in the courtroom.
"What's the difference between these criminals and terrorists?" Razzaq asked.
Judge sticks to mandatory minimum
The sentences were handed down by Judge Royce Lamberth after a day-long hearing. Defense lawywers had argued for leniency while the prosecutors asked that the judge deliver sentences harsher than the minimum mandatory sentences. He denied both requests.
"Based on the seriousness of the crimes, I find the penalty is not excessive," Lamberth said afterward.
While the defense attorneys brought out character witnesses and asked Lamberth to consider that their clients had been under enormous pressure in an unstable, war-torn environment, prosecutors argued that the four "refused to accept virtually any responsibility for their crimes and the blood they shed that day."
The defense is likely to appeal the sentences.
Blackwater Worldwide has since been sold and renamed several times. Now know as Academi, it is based in northern Virginia.
es/cmk (AP, Reuters)