Former Blackwater contractor sentenced to life in Iraq civilian shootings

An Iraqi victim of a shooting incident holds up a picture of himself, during a meeting with US Federal Prosecutors to discuss the case against the security firm Blackwater at the central police station close to Nussur Square in central Baghdad on December 13, 2008. Three U.S. federal prosecutors met today in Baghdad with the families of victims and wounded from the shooting last September 2007 at Nussur Square by security officers from the US based Blackwater Security Company. Five Blackwater guards were charged on December 08, with the killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others with gunfire and grenades while traveling in a convoy through a busy Baghdad intersection in September 2007. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has sentenced a former Blackwater security contractor to life in prison for his role in the 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians in Iraq.

Judge Royce Lamberth issued the sentence Wednesday after friends and relatives requested leniency for Nicholas Slatten, who was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in December.

Prosecutors charged that Slatten was the first to fire shots in the September 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad. In all, 10 men, two women and two boys, ages 9 and 11, were killed.

The defense had argued that Slatten and other Blackwater contractors opened fire only after they saw what they mistakenly thought was a potential suicide car bomber moving quickly toward their convoy.

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