A federal judge yesterday refused to throw out charges against five U.S. security contractors accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in a busy Baghdad square in 2007.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina came in an early legal challenge brought by lawyers representing the guards, who worked at the time for Blackwater Worldwide. The guards' attorneys had argued that the government did not have jurisdiction to bring the charges.
The guards were indicted in December on federal charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence in the controversial shooting in bustling Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007. The government says the guards unleashed an unprovoked attack on Iraqi civilians that day, killing 14 and wounding 20 in a blaze of bullets and grenade explosions.
The charges were brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which allows U.S. prosecutors to charge American service members, their family members and those employed by the military for illegal acts committed overseas.
A 2004 amendment expanded the act to cover those working "in support" of Defense Department missions, a provision that prosecutors argue covers security contractors, such as Blackwater.