Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
On Friday, a three judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in D.C. reinstated a criminal case against four of five Blackwater (now known as "Xe") mercenaries who had been indicted for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 16, 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians in Nisur Square.
The five guards, as reported by Reuters, were originally "charged with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation count over a Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqis and strained ties between the two countries." The decision by the appellate court panel was unanimous and seen as "a victory to the U.S. Justice Department in a high-profile prosecution dating to 2008."
The five had been part of a 23 member Blackwater team known as Raven 23 who "submitted sworn written statements to the State Department using a form that included a guarantee that the statement and...evidence derived therefrom would not be used in a criminal proceeding against the signer," the court stated in its redacted opinion.
The District Court dismissed the case on the grounds that the government had failed to prove that the evidence it was relying upon was not derived or affected by the immunized statements. The Court of Appeal ruled that the District court had erred by treating all of the evidence as tainted instead of conducting an independent, line-by-line analysis as to whether the evidence was independently obtained from other sources, including Iraqis present at the massacre, noting "when armed guards shoot a number of people in a crowd, it doesn't take Hercule Poirot to start wondering what the crowd was doing."
While criminal proceedings continue against these four, low-level former Blackwater mercenaries, Blackwater and its founder Erik Prince are not amongst the accused --- this despite the never resolved, explosive allegations, discussed in our Aug. 10, 2009 article, "Blackwater = Murder, Inc." that the company and its founder had engaged in "murder, destruction of evidence, weapons smuggling" and other sordid crimes...