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US military contractor gets probation after pleading guilty to shooting Afghan detainee

[JURIST] A US military contractor who pleaded guilty [press release; JURIST report] in February to voluntary manslaughter for the 2008 shooting of an Afghan detainee was sentenced in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] Friday to five years probation and a $12,500 fine. Don Ayala had been charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing 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.

Crimes committed by military contractors abroad have also occurred in Iraq and are considered to be the impetus behind provisions in the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement [PDF text; JURIST report] that give Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over contractors working there. Earlier this week the security company known formerly as Blackwater Worldwide [corporate website] concluded its operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] as its contract to protect American diplomats in Iraq expired. The decision by the Iraqi government not to renew the contract was motivated in part by the alleged killing of 17 civilians by Blackwater guards [JURIST report] in September 2007. In January, five Blackwater guards pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and weapons charges. A sixth guard pleaded guilty [text, PDF] to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident.

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