More than 1,000 people marched past the main gates at Fort Meade in Maryland [USA] on 1 June in a demonstration against the impending start of a court-martial for WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.
Manning should be returning to the civilian world right now. Instead, after three years of incarceration, Manning’s court-martial on 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy,” began on 3 June.
According to the military Rules of Court-martial, Manning’s trial should have been held within 120 days of arraignment. While [presiding judge] Colonel Denise Lind claimed there were exceptional circumstances that warranted the extra time, Manning has languished in a military brig and been subjected to brutal treatment for years. Combs has accused the prosecutors of deliberately dragging their feet and wrote in his motion that “the government’s behaviour is nothing short of shameful.”
What better way to induce cooperation and a guilty plea than to keep a prisoner in a long, seemingly endless detention? Then there’s the conditions in which Manning was held. Manning remained in solitary confinement for 11 months and was allowed to leave the cell for one hour a day. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez called Manning’s treatment “cruel, inhumane, and degrading.” Mendez also made it clear that Manning’s isolation was “in an effort to coerce him into ‘cooperation’ with the authorities, allegedly for the purpose of persuading him to implicate others.”
For these reasons alone, the charges against Bradley Manning should be dismissed. But Manning is being prosecuted for, essentially, informing the public of US war crimes, lies and government deception.
Manning’s court-martial trial is expected to last for roughly three months. The prosecution is charging Manning with 22 separate counts, including a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act and “aiding an enemy.”
Earlier this year, Manning pled guilty to 10 of the counts against him, acknowledging responsibility for the release of the military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks. Manning has pled “not guilty” to the other 12 charges, which include the charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning is looking at a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, based on the guilty plea, but prosecutors want to send a message to the American public about whistleblowing and are pursuing a life sentence, without parole.
• Abridged from an article by Tristan Brosnan with contributions from Steve Leigh in Socialist Worker, the journal of the US-based socialist group International Socialist Organization.