Prosecutors announced Friday that they plan to introduce new evidence at a June trial of four Blackwater security guards of deep hostility by several of the guards toward the Iraqi civilian population in the year before shootings that killed more than a dozen people.
The incident at Nisoor Square in Baghdad on Sept. 16 left 14 Iraqi citizens dead and 18 others wounded, The Associated Press noted.
The security guards were charged with manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and gun violations in the incident.
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The guards said that they believe they were under hostile fire before the shooting, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) argues that their actions were "reckless."
"In the year leading up to the events of Sept. 16, 2007, several of the defendants harbored a low regard for and deep hostility toward the Iraqi civilian population, which they openly expressed to other Blackwater personnel and exhibited through their deliberately reckless actions, the department said in a court filing.
"This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury," the DOJ added, "but rather that they unreasonably and recklessly fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their low regard for and hostility toward Iraqis."
Last October, the DOJ brought new charges against the security guards, including Dustin Heard, a former Marine from Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty, a former Marine from Rochester, N.H.; Nick Slatten, a former Army sergeant from Sparta, Tenn., and Paul Slough, an Army veteran from Keller, Texas.
Manslaughter and weapons charges were originally brought against the guards in 2008, but a federal judge dismissed the case in 2009 on the grounds that the DOJ withheld evidence
from a grand jury and violated the guards' constitutional rights.
A federal appeals court reinstated the charges in 2011, claiming that Judge Ricardo Urbina misinterpreted the law.
Earlier this month, attorneys for the Blackwater security guards asked a federal court to dismiss the cases, arguing that the men were improperly charged under a federal law that holds military employees and contractors accountable for crimes committed outside the United States, The Associated Press noted.
Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 and Academi in 2011.
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