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US military contractor pleads guilty to shooting Afghan detainee

[JURIST] US military contractor Don Ayala pleaded guilty [press release] Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter for the 2008 shooting of an Afghan detainee. Ayala had been charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing [affidavit, PDF] detainee Abdul Salam in retaliation for Salam's earlier attack on Ayala's fellow contractor Paula Lloyd [HTS in memoriam profile]. At the time of the incident, Ayala was stationed in Afghanistan as a contractor for Strategic Analysis [corporate website] as part of the US Army's Human Terrain System [official website] program. Ayala was prosecuted under Section 3261 of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) [text], which allows criminal charges to be brought against military contractors overseas. He made his plea before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website].

In December, the US Department of Justice [official website] unsealed indictments [JURIST report] for five Blackwater USA [corporate website] guards allegedly involved in the September 2007 killings of 17 Iraqi civilians, determined by the FBI to be unjustified [JURIST reports]. Crimes committed by military contractors abroad are considered to be the impetus behind provisions in the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement [PDF text; JURIST report] that gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over contractors working there.

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