[JURIST] US security firm Blackwater [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday reached a settlement agreement in seven federal lawsuits filed by Iraqi citizens. The suits claimed that Blackwater, now known as Xe, created a reckless culture [AP report] that resulted in numerous deaths, including the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in September 2007 and the 2006 killing of an Iraqi guard. The suits accused Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personal responsibility. The terms of the settlement have not been made public, but Xe said in a statement that it is "pleased" with the resolution.
The settlement comes just a week after after a US judge dismissed charges [JURIST reoprt] against five guards indicted for their involvement in the September 2007 killings. Judge Richardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed [opinion, PDF] voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges against the five guards, finding that statements were obtained in violation of the Constitution. Earlier this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] said that Iraq will file lawsuits [JURIST report] in both US and Iraqi courts against the guards. The five defendants pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to manslaughter and weapons charges last January. The guards were indicted [JURIST report] in December 2008 on charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. A sixth guard pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident. The Blackwater incident caused domestic outrage in Iraq and has prompted legal controversy in the US.