Survivors and family members who lost loved ones in a massacre of Iraqi civilians in 2007 have reacted with shock and sorrow after Donald Trump pardoned four Blackwater contractors responsible for the killings.
Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten were part of an armoured convoy that opened fire on an unarmed crowd in Baghdad using machine guns, sniper rifles, smoke and hand grenades. Seventeen people, including two children, were killed, and 20 others injured.
Slough, Liberty and Heard were convicted by a U.S. court in 2014 over the deaths of 14 civilians and sentenced to 30 years in prison, while Slatten was jailed for life.
Adil Abdul Hussein’s father, 54, was among the victims in Nisour Square on the 16th of September, 2007, and he testified in court as the four Blackwater guards were convicted.
"I called my mother after hearing the news in the morning, and she started crying for our renewed loss and sorrow,” he told VICE World News in a phone interview.
"I was startled when I saw the news, and it was really hard to believe because when I testified in the U.S. court for my late father, it felt like we were getting a just and fair trial."
The guilty verdicts, Abdul Hussein said, were a “glimpse of justice,” but in pardoning the four Blackwater contractors, “Trump threw it in the trash without any hesitation.”
Hassan Jabir, now 68, was injured in the attack. He said he was shocked by Trump’s decision to pardon the four men.
"I'm really disappointed with the decision, after all of these years we are back to square one, and it felt like getting shot at again. We'll follow this case and wouldn't let anyone get away with such a crime."
"No one responsible and with a clear conscience would free murderers who killed innocent people in the daylight,” he added.
The Nisour Square incident was one of the lowest points of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. In the aftermath, Blackwater lost its licence to operate in Iraq, changed its name, and was later sold by founder Erik Prince.
Brigadier General Faris Saadi of the Iraqi federal police was a colonel at the time of the massacre, and one of the first to arrive at the scene. He travelled to the U.S. for the federal court hearings in 2014. He said Trump’s decision to pardon the contractors, “felt like having a flashback of the mayhem of Nisour square, there isn't any moral ground to justify such a decision."
"We'll do whatever it takes to put these murderers behind bars again, these are true terrorists, and they are a danger wherever they are,” he said.
“Nowhere in the world does a murderer behind bars walk free with a decision from the government,” added Adbul Hussein, whose father was among the victims. “That doesn't happen even in Iraq with all the mess right now."
The 14 victims of the Blackwater guards were named in the U.S. as Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, 9, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, 11, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, 18, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 21, Mahdi Sahib Nasir, 26, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, 27, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, 33, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, 44, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, 47, Osama Fadhil Abbas, 52, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, 52, Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein, 54, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, 55, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, 77.