US appeals court reopens Iraq Blackwater case
WASHINGTON - A US appeals court has reopened the prosecution of four former Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007, documents showed on Sunday.
The decision overturns a 2009 ruling by a district judge that cleared the Blackwater guards of the allegedly unprovoked attack saying prosecutors had broken State Department immunity rules.
"The district court made a number of systemic errors based on an erroneous legal analysis," the three-judge panel wrote in Friday's unanimous decision.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed the move.
"This confirms the ability of the US justice system to make right and achieve justice, and we are confident that the families of the victims will receive their rights and the criminals will be punished," Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Mussawi, said.
The 2009 ruling had outraged the Baghdad government, which maintains 17 people were killed. Twenty people were also wounded.
The Nisoor Square case was among the most sensational that sought to hold Blackwater employees accountable for what was seen as a culture of lawlessness and lack of accountability in the company's Iraqi operations.
Blackwater was then the largest private security firm employed by the Americans in Iraq, but it pulled out of the country in May 2009 after the government refused to renew its contracts.
It has always maintained that its guards opened fire in self-defense.
A fifth security guard has been cleared over the Nisoor Square incident while a sixth employee of Blackwater, which is now known as Xe, pleaded guilty in December to attempted homicide.