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US: Four Blackwater guards jailed for slaughter of Iraqis

US DEFENCE lawyers vowed yesterday to appeal after four former Blackwater private security guards were given lengthy prison terms over the 2007 massacre of unarmed civilians in Iraq.

In Washington, District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced former guard Nicholas Slatten to life in prison for first-degree murder.

Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard each received 30 years and one day in jail for offences including manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using firearms while committing a felony.

The shooting spree in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square during which the offences were committed led to the deaths of 14 civilians and wounded 17 more.

The massacre caused an international uproar over the use of trigger-happy private security guards in a war zone.

Assistant US Attorney Patrick Martin called the shooting an unprovoked ambush of civilians, accusing the men of showing no remorse and taking no responsibility.

Defence lawyers claimed that the men had been fired on and shot back in self-defence.

Prosecutors had asked for tougher sentences while the defence had sought leniency and presented character witnesses for the accused.

Judge Royce Lamberth said that he fully agreed with the jury’s guilty verdicts and praised the Justice Department and the FBI for investigating the shooting and putting the truth “out there for the world to see.”

But the defence pointed to several appeal issues, including vindictive prosecution and whether contractors could be charged under a federal law covering the overseas crimes of Defence Department civilian employees.

by Our Foreign Desk

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