WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON (AP) — There was more than enough untainted evidence to justify a trial for five Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad, the Justice Department told a federal appeals court.
In court papers seeking to reinstate criminal charges, the department asserted that some of the evidence tainted by immunized statements in the case was harmless and did not justify scuttling the manslaughter charges against the guards.
In December, a federal judge dismissed the case against the security guards, who had opened fire on a crowded Baghdad street. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
In the filing released Wednesday by the appeals court, the government said the judge who dismissed the charges lost sight of the key question of whether the defendants' testimony given under a grant of immunity from prosecution was actually used against them.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina "unjustifiably drew the curtain on a meritorious prosecution," Justice Department lawyers wrote.
Urbina ruled on Dec. 31 that the Justice Department mishandled evidence and violated the guards' constitutional rights.
The Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater, now called Xe Services, has said the guards were innocent, contending they were ambushed by insurgents. Prosecutors said the shooting was unprovoked.