"The explanations offered by the prosecutors and investigators in an attempt to justify their actions and persuade the court that they did not use the defendants' compelled testimony were all too often contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility."
U.S. Federal Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, in his ruling throwing out the indictment of five former Blackwater security guards over a 2007 shooting in Baghdad.
"What are we not human?" Why do they have the right to kill people? Is our blood so cheap? For America, the land of justice and law, what does it mean to let criminals go?"
Abdul Wahab Adul Khader, a 34-year-old Iraqi bank employee who was wounded years ago in the Blackwater shooting, after a judge decides to drop all charges against the contractors.
While U.S. commanders in Iraq began the new year by celebrating their first month without a combat death since the start of the war, the milestone was mostly overshadowed by Federal Judge Urbina's decision to dismiss the charges against the Blackwater guards who opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007, leaving 17 Iraqis dead and about 20 wounded. Urbina found that the prosecutors and investigators had improperly used statements given by the five Blackwater guards, compromising their right to a fair trial. The ruling brought one of the highest-profile prosecutions to come out of the Iraq war to a sudden halt and delivered a significant blow to the U.S. Justice Department.
Meanwhile, much of the focus is on the Hussein-era years in the lead up to the parliamentary elections. Vice President Joe Biden visits Iraq in late January and declares support for the controversial banning of Ba'athists from the voting. And "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid, a key figure in Saddam Hussein's government, is executed after being sentenced to death by hanging. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also finds himself in the hot seat, defending himself against critics in a highly anticipated testimony before an official inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq conflict.