WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday brought fresh charges against four former Blackwater Worldwide security contractors, resurrecting an internationally charged case over a deadly 2007 shooting on the streets of Baghdad.
A new grand jury indictment charges the men in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq and heightened diplomatic sensitivities amid an ongoing war. The men were hired to guard U.S. diplomats.
The guards are accused of opening fire in busy Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen Iraqi civilians died, including women and children. Prosecutors say the heavily armed Blackwater convoy used machine guns and grenades in an unprovoked attack. Defense lawyers argue their clients are innocent men who were ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.
The guards were charged with manslaughter and weapons violations in 2008, but a federal judge the following year dismissed the case, ruling the Justice Department withheld evidence from a grand jury and violated the guards’ constitutional rights.
The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who complained that it showed Americans consider themselves above the law. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Baghdad in 2010, expressed his “personal regret” for the shootings.
A federal appeals court reinstated the case in 2011, saying now-retired Judge Ricardo Urbina had wrongly interpreted the law.
Prosecutors again presented evidence before a grand jury, and U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth gave the Justice Department until Monday to decide what to do with the case.