A federal judge in the US has thrown out all charges against five employees of security firm Blackwater accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Judge Ricardo Urbina, said prosecutors had wrongly used statements the guards were obliged to make about the incident under the terms of their employment. These statements were only supposed to be used as part of an inquiry into the events, not as prosecution evidence.
It had been alleged the men recklessly opened fire on a crowd while escorting a heavily-armed convoy of diplomats through the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The dead included women and children.
The defendants denied charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and weapons violations. Blackwater said the men were responding to what they believed was an imminent car bomb attack.
However, a sixth accused admitted manslaughter and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The incident cost Blackwater Worldwide – now known as Xe Services – contracts in Iraq and strained ties between Baghdad and Washington.