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Iraqi widow files suit; husband killed by Blackwater employee

Union Tribune (2009-03-21) Greg Moran

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Iraqi widow files suit; husband killed by Blackwater employee

By Greg Moran

Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. March 21, 2009

FEDERAL COURT — The widow of an Iraqi security guard killed on Christmas Eve 2006 by a Blackwater employee filed a wrongful-death suit in San Diego federal court, alleging the company reneged on a promise to compensate the family and tried to cover up the Baghdad incident.

The private security company, which has renamed itself Xe (pronounced “zee”), fired back in a statement that the suit was a publicity stunt and that it had cooperated with government probes into the notorious incident.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the widow and two children of Raheem Khalaf Sa'adoon, who was 32 and worked as a security guard for a vice president of Iraq.

Sa'adoon was shot by a then-Blackwater employee, Andrew Moonen. According to the suit, Moonen was drunk after attending a holiday party, got lost on the streets of Baghdad, and when he encountered Sa'adoon, he shot him.

The incident touched off a furor when Blackwater flew Moonen out of the country two days after the shooting. It was later the subject of a congressional hearing and a probe by the Department of Justice, but no charges were filed.

The lawsuit says that the company paid the widow $20,000 after the shooting and said it would give her more, but it has not. It also alleges that the company has destroyed evidence – a charge that company spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell denied in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego because it is where Xe has a facility on the West Coast, said Susan Burke, one of the lawyers for the widow. Xe has a facility in a 610,000-square-foot industrial building in Otay Mesa to provide security training to the U.S. Navy.

Burke said the case might be moved to Virginia, where other lawsuits against the company are pending.

The widow lives in Baghdad. It often is difficult for foreign citizens who file suit in the United States over injuries that took place in their country to have their cases remain in federal courts. Judges have the discretion to rule that the Sa'adoon case should not be heard here.

In a statement, Tyrrell said the shooting was an unfortunate incident that happened when Moonen was off-duty. She said he was fined and fired by the company.

Burke also is suing Xe in other lawsuits related to Xe's actions in Iraq, Tyrrell said. “Today's filing is riddled with errors and is being driven by a desire for publicity,” she said.

“Many of its claims are identical to prior claims in an unrelated suit, where the same attorneys have been asked by a federal judge to refrain from trying their case in the media. This lawsuit appears to be a way for these lawyers to avert that request,” Tyrrell said.

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Title Iraqi widow files suit; husband killed by Blackwater employee
Publisher Union Tribune
Author Greg Moran
Pub Date 2009-03-21
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Keywords Blackwater, Iraq War, Private Mercenaries
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Media Group News
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Topic revision: r1 - 21 Mar 2009, RaymondLutz
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