Trump pardons security contractors involved in Baghdad massacre

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President Donald Trump has pardoned four former Blackwater security contractors who were previously convicted in the murders of civilians during the 2007 Baghdad massacre. Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, served extensive prison sentences before their pardons. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited the men’s “service to the nation,” as well as what she termed in a statement a “lack of evidence” presented at Slatten’s trial.

The case of the Blackwater contractors has been a part of a heavy legal battle since 2007.

The private security firm deployed thousands of former veterans and contractors to Baghdad around 2007. The firm, which has since been renamed Academi, was founded by Erik Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

On September 16, 2007, Slatten, Slough, Liberty and Heard were in Baghdad when they opened fire on a crowded intersection in Nisoor Square. Their bullets killed 17 Iraqi civilians, and muddled U.S-Iraqi relationships for years to come, according to the Iraqi government and the Justice Department

While all four men said they were “set upon” by enemy insurgents while trying to establish a blockade, witness reports described the shootings as “unprovoked,” with the men using heavy artillery to attack unarmed civilians. 

After a lengthy legal battle, all four were convicted in 2014 in federal court. Slough, Liberty and Heard were given 30 years in prison, while Slatten, the leader of the group, was sentenced to life. All four men have been through several appeals, with Slough, Liberty and Heard being resentenced to shorter terms and Slatten successfully arguing down his first degree murder conviction before being given another life sentence.

The pardons of Slatten, Slough, Liberty and Heard were part of Mr. Trump’s last executive clemencies while in office. On Tuesday, Trump pardoned an additional ten citizens, including George Papadopoulos, and commuted the sentences of 5 more people.

“Paul Slough and his colleagues didn’t deserve to spend one minute in prison,” said Brian Heberlig, a lawyer for one of the defendants told AP News. “I am overwhelmed with emotion at this fantastic news.”

While supporters of the four Blackwater contractors have rejoiced at the news, detractors of the contract firm have decried Mr. Trump’s pardon. Hina Shamsi, the director of the American’s Civil Liberties Union national security project, called the pardons a “worldwide scandal.”

Shamsi said: “President Trump insults the memory of the Iraqi victims and further degrades his office with this action.”

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