Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in Wikileaks case

 

The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan at Fort Meade: ''The prosecution will be disappointed that the sentence is relatively low''

The US soldier convicted of handing a trove of secret government documents to anti-secrecy website Wikileaks has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Pte First Class Bradley Manning, 25, was convicted in July of 20 charges against him, including espionage.

In a statement read by his lawyer after the sentencing, Pte Manning said he had acted "out of love for our country".

His supporters have called on President Barack Obama to pardon the soldier or commute his sentence to time served.

Parole in seven?

In court

After 10 weeks of legal argument, the sentencing was over in minutes. Judge Col Denise Lind sat in front of the Stars and Stripes and the US Army flag as she sentenced Pte Manning to 35 years in prison.

The 25-year-old defendant, in full military uniform, cut a diminutive, bespectacled figure as he sat in court, tapping his feet and rearranging his papers. But as he stood to hear her words he showed little emotion. And his aunt, Debra van Alstyne, also seemed impassive behind him.

The hush was broken as he was led away. His supporters, dressed in black T-shirts bearing the word "truth", ignored earlier warnings by court officials and the judge to remain calm. Shouts of "We'll be waiting for you, Bradley" and "Thank you, Bradley, we love you" rang out.

Pte Manning will receive a credit against his sentence of about three and a half years, including time he has already served in jail and 112 days in recompense for the harsh conditions of his initial confinement.

His defence lawyer David Coombs said Pte Manning would first be eligible for parole in about seven years.

Prosecutors had asked for a 60-year sentence in order to send a message to future potential leakers, and Wikileaks called the 35-year sentence a "significant strategic victory".

Military prosecutors did not immediately comment.

In addition to the prison sentence, likely to be served at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Judge Col Denise Lind sentenced Pte Manning to be demoted to private and dishonourably discharged from the US Army, and to forfeit his pay.

While stationed in Iraq in 2010, the junior intelligence analyst passed hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, the pro-transparency group headed by Julian Assange.

'End Brad's suffering'

Pte Manning has said he leaked the secret files in the hopes of sparking a public debate about US foreign policy and the military.

US soldier Bradley Manning is pictured in a courtroom sketch at Ft. Meade in Maryland 21 August 2013 Pte Manning was taken from the courtroom shortly after the sentencing

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Coombs, flanked by Manning supporters, said he would ask President Obama to pardon Pte Manning.

"The time to end Brad's suffering is now," he said.

Mr Coombs read a statement from Pte Manning that will be included in the request.

"The decisions I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world we live in," Pte Manning said, according to Mr Coombs.

Kevin Fox, Bradley Manning's uncle: ''He's a hero''

"When I chose to disclose classified information... I did so out of love for our country and a sense of duty for others. If you deny my request for a pardon I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society."

Mr Coombs also read a statement from the soldier's family, which said they were "saddened and disappointed" by the sentence.

For his own part, the lawyer said he was in tears after the sentence was handed down but that Pte Manning had told him: "I know you did your best. It's going to be OK."

When asked about the pardon request, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was "not going to get ahead" of the process.

The soldier's uncle, Kevin Fox, of Haverfordwest, Wales, said the family had expected a harsher sentence.

"In my honest opinion, he shouldn't have been given any time at all," Mr Fox told the BBC. "In my eyes he is a hero."

The charges

Guilty: Seven out of eight espionage charges, five theft charges, two computer fraud charges, five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation, one of wanton publication of intelligence on the internet

Not guilty: Aiding the enemy, unauthorised possession of information relating to national defence

The verdict and sentence will be reviewed, and possibly reduced, by a military district commander and will be automatically reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Pte Manning may also petition the court for lenience during the appeals process.

Isolated deployment

The young soldier grew up in Oklahoma and in Wales, where his mother is from, and reportedly joined the US Army to help pay for college.

Wikileaks

  • Website with a reputation for publishing sensitive material
  • Run by Julian Assange, an Australian with a background in computer network hacking
  • Released 77,000 secret US records of US military incidents about the war in Afghanistan and 400,000 similar documents on Iraq
  • Also posted video showing US helicopter killing 12 people - including two journalists - in Baghdad in 2007
  • Other controversial postings include screenshots of the e-mail inbox and address book of US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin

As an intelligence analyst, he had access to a large amount of very sensitive information, despite his junior rank.

He deployed to Iraq in 2009 and soon became disillusioned with the war, his defence lawyer has said.

A military psychiatrist testified that Pte Manning had struggled with his gender identity and wanted to become a woman at the time of the leak.

Navy Capt David Moulton testified that Pte Manning had felt abandoned by friends and family and that his relationship with his boyfriend had hit a rough patch.

According to evidence presented by the defence, military supervisors ignored Pte Manning's erratic behaviour, which included trying to grab a gun during a counselling session.

'In a cage'

His lawyers said such actions had shown that Pte Manning had not been fit for duty overseas.

Lead defence lawyer David Coombs says Manning's treatment was "specifically designed to break his spirit"

Defence lawyers said Pte Manning was treated unfairly in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia and in a cell at Camp Arifjan, a US Army installation in Kuwait.

Pte Manning told the court he remembered thinking: "I'm going to die, I'm stuck inside this cage."

The leaks enabled Wikileaks to publish sensitive messages between US diplomats and records of military incidents in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a cockpit video showing an Apache helicopter killing 12 people in the Iraqi capital in 2007.

The revelations caused significant embarrassment to the US government, and its officials have said the disclosures damaged America's relations with its allies and disrupted the war effort in Afghanistan.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1627.

    Feel sorry for him, a man who wanted to tell the world about crimes his country has committed, and his life has been ruined because of it.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1598.

    This guy is a criminal. Plain and simple. He's seriously compromised the security of his country. You think other nations aren't engaged in this type of activity? You're dreaming, welcome to the real world, people. If you want to do this type of thing, go stand on the corner with a sandwich board. The army is no place for you.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1449.

    While he may have had good intetions, what he did was illegal. He revealed military secrets with a disregard for the consequences. 35 years is a lenient compared to what he was charged for.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1394.

    I signed the official secrets act a long time ago, I still know sensitive information, I wouldn't dream of divulging it. However when a government or even a humble soldier does something that is morally wrong, inhumane or indefensible then if you don't blow the whistle then you are part of that moral wrongdoing. Manning shone a bright light on some very dark events, his actions were admirable

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1284.

    Reveal a crime and you are prosecuted. Don't reveal and they get away with wrongdoing. And if you protest this Catch 22 they claim they are right on the basis of "national security". Whistle-blowers are thus scared off reporting for fear of the consequences and we are all worse of because of it. Can the Nobel Prize be reclaimed from Obama perhaps ?

 

Comments 5 of 15

 

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