In today's New York Times, Matt Apuzzo profiles the more than four dozen Iraqi witnesses testifying against the security firm once known as Blackwater, then Xe, now Academi.
The witnesses say guards fired wildly on innocent and unarmed Iraqi citizens, killing 17.
This will be the largest number of foreign witnesses to testify in a criminal trial in the United States, according to the Department of Justice.
The witness wore a suit with no tie, the top button of his gray shirt undone. He had told this story many times, and now that he was in the United States, telling his story at last to a jury, he appeared neither hurried nor anxious.
Sarhan Deab Abdul Moniem was a traffic officer that day in September 2007, when a convoy of Blackwater Worldwide trucks pulled into his traffic circle in Baghdad and started shooting. He held up two hands, showing jurors how he had pleaded with the American security contractors to stop. Through a translator, he spoke in a matter-of-fact way about running toward a victim inside a white Kia sedan.
"There was a lady. She was screaming and weeping about her son and asking for help," Mr. Moniem said. He showed jurors how she had cradled her dead son's head on her shoulder. "I asked her to open up the door so I could help her. But she was paying attention only to her son."
"In U.S. Court, Iraqis Accusing Blackwater of Murders in '07" [nytimes.com]
As one might expect, lawyers for the defense say the Iraqi witnesses' testimony is "orchestrated" and not credible. [AP] They argue the guards were acting in self-defense. [Reuters]