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3 Feb 2016

Eric Tucker, Associated Press (USA)

Blackwater contractors appeal US court convictions over shootings in Iraq

“4 ex-Blackwater contractors appeal convictions in shootings”, 1 Feb 2016

Four former Blackwater security contractors found guilty in a deadly Baghdad shooting appealed their convictions on Monday, saying a key witness against them had changed his testimony after the trial and that prosecutors lacked jurisdiction to even bring the case…The case arose from a September 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square, with prosecutors accusing the guards in the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians….Central to the appeal is a witness who defense lawyers say changed his account of what happened in a way that undermines the government’s narrative…[T]he defense team said Monday the new account dismantled the prosecution’s case and called into question the entire chain of events presented to the jury…“The district court abused its discretion by denying a new trial.”…Defense lawyers also challenged the federal law under which the case was brought— the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act — saying it was meant to hold Defense Department contractors accountable for crimes committed overseas.  But the Blackwater guards were in Iraq as State Department contractors and were responsible for providing security to State Department and diplomatic personnel…“They were acting under Embassy, not military, supervision, and were not participating in any military operation or supporting any Defense Department mission,” the defense lawyers wrote…