WASHINGTON , Dec. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following remarks are being released by the U.S. Department of Justice:
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICK ROWAN :
Good afternoon. My name is Pat Rowan . I'm the Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
I am joined on stage by Jeffrey Taylor , the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia , and Joseph Persichini, Jr. , the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. The prosecutors on this case, Kenneth Kohl , Jonathan Malis , and Barry Jonas , are also here with us today.
I'll provide some brief remarks, and then turn over the podium to Jeff and Joe for further comment. Afterwards, we'll be happy to take your questions.
We are here today to announce that a 35-count indictment has been unsealed in the District of Columbia . As you are aware, an indictment is merely a formal charging document notifying a defendant of the charges against him or her. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The indictment unsealed today charges five Blackwater security guards with voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and weapons violations for their alleged roles in the Sept. 16, 2007 shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq .
Specifically, the defendants are charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 other individuals in connection with this event.
In addition, we can report that a sixth Blackwater security guard has pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same shooting. This guilty plea also was unsealed today.
While there were dangers in Baghdad in September 2007 , there were also ordinary people going about their lives, performing mundane daily tasks like making their way through a crowded traffic circle.
For the safety of these people, as well as U.S. government personnel and their own colleagues, security guards were obligated to refrain from firing their powerful weapons except when necessary for self-defense.
The documents unsealed today allege that these six men disregarded that obligation and, in doing so, violated U.S. law. The consequences were devastating.
The government alleges in the documents unsealed today that at least 34 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed or injured without justification or provocation by these Blackwater security guards in the shooting at Nisur Square.
Today's indictment and guilty plea should serve as a reminder that those who engage in unprovoked and illegal attacks on civilians -- whether during times of conflict or times of peace - will be held accountable.
I'd like to thank the FBI for its tremendous work investigating this crime, as well as the prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office and the National Security Division for their efforts in bringing this case. I'd also like to thank Iraqi authorities for their assistance in the case.
I'd now like to introduce Jeff Taylor .
U.S. ATTORNEY JEFFREY TAYLOR :
Thank you, Pat. Good morning everyone.
As Pat mentioned, the 35-count indictment that was unsealed today charges five security guards of Blackwater Worldwide with manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and weapons violations for their alleged roles in the tragic September 16, 2007 shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq . Nisur Square is located just outside a fortified area of central Baghdad , known as the "International Zone" and commonly known as the "Green Zone," where most, if not all, of the foreign embassies in Iraq are located, including the United States Embassy.
As set forth in the indictment, the five defendants were all employed by the Armed Forces outside the United States . Specifically, the defendants worked as independent contractors and employees of Blackwater Worldwide, a company contracted by the Department of State to provide personal security services related to supporting the Department of Defense in the Republic of Iraq , within the meaning of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (or "MEJA").