Blackwater wants case tried under shari’a
Interesting: Blackwater has requested that a case that was brought against it be tried under Islamic law. The story, by Joseph Neff and Jay Price:
The private military company Blackwater has cultivated a patriotic reputation, with its staff of retired military and former police officers, and the requirement that most of its workers swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
Blackwater’s aviation wing recently filed a unique request in federal court, where the widows of three American soldiers are suing the company over a botched flight supporting the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
The company, based in Moyock, doesn’t want the case heard in an American courtroom under American law: it wants the case decided by Shari’a, the Islamic law of Afghanistan.
Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder and owner, discussed the company’s position in a meeting today with editors and reporters at The News & Observer. John Drescher, the editor of The N&O, pressed Prince to justify having the case moved overseas.
“North Carolinians are a very patriotic people,” Drescher told Prince. “It’s hard to read that brief as an American citizen and not be insulted by it.”
“Where did the crash occur?” Prince responded. “Afghanistan.”
“What you are saying is you don’t want to have this case heard by an American judge, by an American jury, under American law,” Drescher said. “We want it heard under Sharia law, under Islamic law?”
Prince said he would defer to his lawyers on the issue.
The crash of Blackwater Flight 61 occurred in the rugged mountains of central Afghanistan in 2004, killing three soldiers and the three-man crew.
The widows of the soldiers sued Presidential Airways, Blackwater’s aviation wing, which was under contract with the U.S. military to fly cargo and personnel around Afghanistan.
The company argued that the lawsuit must be dismissed; legal doctrine holds that soldiers cannot sue the government, and Blackwater’s aviation wing was acting as an agent of the government.
Last year, a series of federal judges dismissed that argument.
In April, Blackwater asked a federal judge in Florida to apply Islamic law, commonly known as Shari’a, to the case. If the judge agreed, the lawsuit would be dismissed. Shari’a law does not hold a company responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their work.
The National Transportation Safety Board has blamed the crash on Presidential for its “failure to require its flight crews to file and fly a defined route,” and for not providing oversight to make sure its crews followed company policies and Pentagon and FAA safety regulations.
The NTSB also found fault with the pilot, Noel English, who took a scenic route rather than a direct one and unwittingly turned the transport plane into a box canyon — one that was closed at one end by tall ridges. The accident report also cited as possible factors the inexperience of the two pilots and their apparent lack of use of oxygen at the high altitude.
A transcript of the final 32 minutes of the flight from a cockpit voice recorder included several light-hearted comments about the extraordinary scenery, unusually clear weather and even what music would go best with the high-adrenaline flight as the plane swerved along between the walls of the canyon.
“I hope I’m goin’ in the right valley,” English said after takeoff. “I’m just gonna go up this one.”
By the time he saw the danger, English didn’t have space to fully turn the aircraft. Partway through the turn, it slammed into a mountain wall at more than 14,000 feet.