US Blackwater guard in 2007 Baghdad shooting to face new trial

A file photo of members of Blackwater. (AFP)
Updated 23 November 2017
0

US Blackwater guard in 2007 Baghdad shooting to face new trial

WASHINGTON: A former security contractor for the US firm Blackwater, whose murder conviction for a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting was overturned last August, is to face a fresh trial.
Federal prosecutors said Nicholas Slatten, who was originally found guilty of first-degree murder, will face retrial as early as May, The Washington Post reported.
Slatten was part of a Blackwater Worldwide security detail that opened fire on civilians at a bustling traffic circle in the Iraqi capital in September 2007, killing 14 people and sparking international outrage.
He and three other former Blackwater guards were found guilty of murder in 2014, but the appeals court ruled this year that Slatten’s conviction be thrown out, arguing that he should have faced a separate trial from his co-defendants.
Slatten, 33, had been accused of opening fire first during the incident, killing the driver of a van that had stopped near the Blackwater motorcade on Nisour Square in Baghdad.
But the appeals court ruled that since another of the accused had confessed to opening fire first, Slatten’s conviction could not stand and that he should face a retrial on his own.
The US contractors shot at civilians, including women and children, with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, killing at least 14 and wounding 17 others — a slaughter that caused fury even in war-ravaged Iraq.
Relatives of the slain called for the four US guards to be executed.
Federal prosecutors in the US capital expect the trial to last around six weeks and to call around 50 witnesses, including more than a dozen Iraqis, the Post said.
The first hearing to set a trial date will take place on December 14, when officials will also decide on whether to release Slatten from a federal prison in Florida, where he has been serving a life sentence.


Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

Updated 4 min 31 sec ago
0

Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

  • Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked
  • The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament will meet under tight security Wednesday, after the top court ruled its dissolution illegal and opened the door to a vote on which of two rival prime ministers has the support to rule.
Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the president sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with former strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court overruled President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of parliament, and halted preparations for a snap election, in a major boost for the ousted prime minister.
Wickremesinghe is confident he can command a majority and wants a vote on the floor of the 225-member assembly to determine the legitimacy of the government installed by presidential diktat.
“Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ordered the police to ensure that MPs have free access to parliament,” a spokesman for the Speaker said. “There will be tight security.”
Thousands of armed police have been deployed along the key approach roads to parliament, which is located on a man-made lake island, with several anti-riot units on standby.
Parliament officials fear that supporters of Rajapaksa’s party may try to stop legislators getting to parliament.
However, by early Wednesday there were no large crowds and only small pockets of Wickremesinghe supporters gathered near the parliament complex.
Rajapaksa’s party was divided Tuesday on facing a test in parliament. His legislator son Namal Rajapaksa said they will attend the legislature, but other party seniors said they would not.
Sirisena sacked the legislature after his party admitted that they did not have an absolute majority despite engineering the defections of eight legislators from Wickremesinghe’s party.
Since then, at least two legislators have ditched Rajapaksa and joined Wickremesinghe’s UNP party which insists it has a comfortable majority in the House.
Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still the prime minister, has refused to vacate the official Temple Trees residence which is a symbol of state power in the island.
The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration, according to lawmakers on both sides.