US President Donald Trump has issued series of pardons for 15 people, including four Blackwater officials, convicted in 2007 of indiscriminate firing on dozens of civilians in Baghdad.
The use of private security guards in the war zone has drawn worldwide criticism following the shooting deaths of civilians by Blackwater officials in Baghdad.
In the last days of his term, Trump has reportedly pardoned the campaign and two people linked to Russia, according to AFP.
The report said the decision sparked further controversy over the Republican president’s refusal to concede defeat to Biden in the November election.
Others involved in Trump’s pardon include his political allies.
A statement from the White House said, “Trump has pardoned a total of 15 people who were sentenced to five years in prison.
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, has been given a full pardon after he confessed to lying to Russian investigators about his contacts with Russia.
The former adviser was part of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the 2016 presidential campaign and was convicted in October 2017 of lying to a professor about a professor’s promise to contact Russia before the FBI.
Trump’s former election adviser spent 12 days in prison after his conviction.
The White House said in a statement that “today’s apology will help correct Mueller’s team’s mistake, which involved many people.”
Trump has also granted a full pardon to Alex Rolf van der Zwaan, a lawyer from the Netherlands who was also convicted in light of Mueller’s investigation.
The pardoned Blackwater operatives were convicted in 2007 of killing civilians in Baghdad, including Nicholas Slaton, who was sentenced to life in prison.
The bomber struck shortly after noon in Baghdad’s Nasr Square, killing at least 14 people and wounding 17 others. Blackwater said its forces opened fire in self-defence.
The White House said in a statement that the four apologists had long served in the US military for the nation.
Trump has also pardoned three former Republican members of Congress.
On the other hand, several people, including Adam Schiff, a Democrat in Congress and head of the House Intelligence Committee, have condemned Trump’s decision.
He said on Twitter, “Lie to cover up for the president? You get a pardon. Corrupt politician who endorsed Trump? You get a pardon. Murder innocent civilians? You get a pardon. Elect a corrupt man as president? You get a corrupt result.”
Lie to cover up for the president? You get a pardon.
Corrupt politician who endorsed Trump? You get a pardon.
Murder innocent civilians? You get a pardon.
Elect a corrupt man as president?
You get a corrupt result.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 23, 2020
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been particularly critical of the amnesty for Blackwater personnel responsible for the massacre in Iraq.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project said that President Donald Trump has done another shameful thing by pardoning Blackwater officials.
“This military personnel were convicted of killing 17 civilians in Iraq and their atrocities in Iraq led to a worldwide defeat for the United States,” she said.
“We are disrespecting the victims of Iraq and this move has tarnished the image of our position,” she added.