[JURIST] Four former Blackwater [corporate website] security contractors on Monday appealed their conviction for a 2007 Baghdad shooting that killed 14 Iraqi civilians. This appeal centers around a witness for the prosecution who changed his testimony [AP report] after the trial in a way that allegedly undermines the government's case. The four men were found guilty [JURIST report] of various murder charges in October 2014 by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], and in April 2015 one was sentenced [JURIST report] to life in prison while the remaining three were given 30 years. US District Judge Royce Lamberth declined to grant a new trial when the witness' new testimony came to light before the sentencing hearing, but the defendants pursue this appeal while maintaining that the shootings were justified.
Blackwater [JURIST news archive] and its employees have faced legal controversy in recent years for activities during the Iraq war. In 2014 the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries urged [JURIST report] stronger global and regulation of private security companies. The call came on the heels of the guilty verdict against the four ex-Blackwater security guards. In August 2012 Blackwater agreed to settle [JURIST report] federal criminal charges dealing with export and firearm violations. Also in 2012 Blackwater reached a confidential settlement agreement [JURIST report] with survivors and families of victims in the 2007 shooting incident. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.