[JURIST] A federal judge in Utah ruled Monday that five indicted Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] guards involved in the September 2007 killings of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] must report to a DC court. Lawyers for the five guards tried to move the proceedings to Utah, where one of the guards lives, but a federal magistrate judge in Salt Lake City agreed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] that the case should remain in DC. The guards, who had turned themselves over to federal authorities in Utah Monday, were ordered to report to a DC court [AP report] on January 6.
The five guards were indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] last Thursday on charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence. The indictments were unsealed Monday [JURIST report]. On Friday, a sixth guard pleaded guilty [text, PDF] to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident. The Blackwater incident caused domestic outrage in Iraq and has prompted legal controversy in the US. In November, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report]. Last month Bush administration officials announced that Iraq security contractors would be losing immunity from Iraqi law under the recently approved [JURIST reports] US Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq.