Administration

Blackwater guard defends actions following Trump pardon, saying, ‘I’m just confident in how I acted’: AP

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Evan Liberty, one of the four former Blackwater contractors pardoned by President Trump last month for their roles in the 2007 killings of more than a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians, said in his first interview since being released from prison that he believes he “acted correctly.” 

Liberty, whose nearly 30-year sentence was cut by half last year, told The Associated Press this week that his actions were justifiable, adding that he and the other contractors “responded to a threat accordingly.” 

“I feel like I acted correctly,” he said of the 2007 incident. “I regret any innocent loss of life, but I’m just confident in how I acted and I can basically feel peace with that.”

The Blackwater guards have continued to argue that they were targeted by insurgent gunfire, though prosecutors asserted there has been no evidence to support this account, as many victims were shot while in their cars at the traffic circle where the shooting occurred or while attempting to flee the scene. 

A 2014 jury convicted Liberty, along with Dustin Heard, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough, in the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians and injuries of several others, with the case’s judge calling the shootings an “overall wild thing” that cannot be accepted. 

The Blackwater firm, whose name has since been changed to Academi, was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, whose sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s education secretary.

Several groups condemned Trump’s pardon of the Blackwater contractors, pointing out that Trump used a presidential power historically reserved for nonviolent crimes. Additionally, as the AP noted, the traditional pardon process led by the Justice Department values acceptance of responsibility and remorse from those convicted.

On Wednesday, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries said that Trump pardoning the contractors violated international law

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said the group’s chair, Jelena Aparac, according to Reuters. 

In a joint statement obtained by Reuters, retired Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the top American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq at the time of the 2007 killings, called the pardons “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity.”

Tags Academi Associated Press Betsy DeVos Betsy DeVos Blackwater Baghdad shootings Donald Trump Erik Prince Erik Prince International law Iraq Justice Department presidential pardons Reuters United Nations
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