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DOJ dropping charges against Blackwater guard involved in 2007 Iraq shootings

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] indicated Friday that they will drop manslaughter charges against a Blackwater Worldwide [JURIST news archive] security guard who had been involved in the September 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad [JURIST report] that killed 17 Iraqis. According to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, Channing Phillips [official profile], a motion was filed under seal to dismiss the charges against Nicholas Slatten. No reason was given as to why the indictment was being dismissed, but prosecutors asked [Reuters report] that they be allowed to resubmit the charges at a later date if desired. Since the incident Blackwater has changed its name to Xe Services [corporate website].

Slatten was one of six guards indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] in December 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. Five of the guards pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in January. However, 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 2008, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report]. Blackwater ended its operations in Iraq [JURIST report] in May.

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