August 18, 2019 in News by RBN Staff

source: original.antiwar.com

Former Blackwater USA guard Nicholas Slatten was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison nearly eight months after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for his role in the September 2007 massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad.

“The jury got it exactly right, this was murder,” US Judge Royce Lamberth said while pronouncing the life sentence in Washington, DC. Lamberth rejected numerous requests for leniency from family, friends and supporters who argued in court that Slatten was a scapegoat being sacrificed upon the altar of US-Iraq relations. The defense had argued that the 35-year-old was “a person of high integrity” from a fourth-generation military family.

However, prosecutors charged that Slatten was the first to open fire during the September 16, 2007 massacre, killing 19-year-old Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, who was driving his mother to an appointment. The defense unsuccessfully argued that Slatten and other guards only started shooting after Al Rubia’y’s Kia sedan, which they thought might be a suicide car bomb, moved quickly toward their convoy.

‘Shooting Like Rain’

The Nisour Square massacre was one of the most publicized US crimes of the 8-year Iraq war. The Blackwater guards were escorting a diplomatic convoy when, without provocation, they opened fire in the crowded square with machine guns, grenade launchers and other weapons.

“The shooting started like rain,” recalled survivor Fareed Walid Hassan, who said he watched a woman dragging her dead young son as she desperately tried to flee the carnage. Another woman, Mohassin Kadhim, was shot dead as she shielded her son in her arms. Survivor Mohammed Kinani’s 9-year-old son Ali was shot in the head as they sat in their car.

“I was standing in shock looking at him as the door opened, and his brain fell on the ground between my feet,” Mohammed recalled. “I looked and his brain was on the ground.”

When the shooting finally stopped after 15 bloody, terrifying minutes, 17 Iraqis – men, women, children, people fleeing in cars and on foot, a man with his arms raised in surrender – were dead. Another 20 were injured, some severely, including one victim wounded by a grenade launched into a girls’ school.