One of the darkest days of the US occupation of Iraq was relived in a Washington courtroom on Wednesday as the prosecution of four Blackwater security contractors accused of killing 14 civilians in a mistaken attack in Baghdad reached an emotional and legal climax.
Seven years after the bloody shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left a total of 17 Iraqis dead and more than 20 seriously wounded, jurors were told of the “shocking amount of death, injury and destruction” that saw “innocent men, women and children mowed down” by private guards working for the US State Department.
In closing arguments, assistant US attorney Anthony Asuncion claimed three of the four defendants were guilty of manslaughter and a fourth of murder for showing extreme disregard for human life in retaliating against what they mistakenly believed was a car bomb attack on their convoy.
But the defence summed up its case with a blistering attack on the government for ignoring evidence of alleged incoming machine gun fire at the convoy, which it also accused Iraqi police of helping to cover up.
The controversial case, which will go to the jury next week, is one of the few in which US forces have been tried for civilian deaths in Iraq and has already been abandoned once after an earlier judge questioned the way evidence was gathered.