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Trial of Blackwater Guards Charged for Role in Baghdad Massacre Nears End

Federal jury hears closing arguments; prosecution charges contractors turned civilians into 'bloodied, bullet-riddled corpses'

Photo: CODEPINK Women For Peace/cc/via flickr

Closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the trial of four Blackwater contractors accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in the infamous massacre in Baghdad's Nissour Square.

Nicholas Slatten is charged with first-degree murder for his role in the 2007 incident. The three other men, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough, face manslaughter and gun charges.

While the defense argued that the guards were responding to incoming gunfire and therefore acted in self-defense, federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion gave the jury a harrowing account of indiscriminate firing by the guards into the traffic square.

“People who could laugh, who could love, were turned into bloodied, bullet-riddled corpses,” the New York Times reports Asuncion as saying. The Times continues:

Mr. Asuncion, who spoke softly for much of his three-hour closing argument, said that even if jurors believed there was Iraqi gunfire that day, nothing justified the Blackwater response. When the shooting stopped, he said, it was clear that none of the victims were insurgents, he said.

“Why shoot all of these people who are running away?” he asked. “Why shoot women and children who are unarmed? There’s no reason. What they did was criminal.”

Bloomberg adds that Asuncion told the jury the fact that several victims were shot in the back showed the “randomness and recklessness” of the contractors' shooting.

Reuters reports that Asuncion's closing statement recounted testimony from a member of the same Blackwater convoy as the men on trial who had "testified that Slatten spoke of Iraqis as 'animals' and had boasted of shooting a man whose head he 'turned ... into a canoe.'"

Jury deliberation will likely begin next week.

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