The judge in the case of US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, announced on Thursday that the trial will begin on February 4 and last approximately five weeks.
Manning faces 22 charges of violating the military code, ranging from theft of records to aiding the enemy. If convicted, the 24-year old could get life in prison.
In the latest in a series of pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade in the US state of Maryland meant to answer questions of law, Army Judge Colonel Denise Lind announced the date and made several rulings.
She ruled two prior incidents where Manning broke military rules are admissible. In June 2008, Manning got in trouble for posting a video online for his family in which he discussed his life and assignment. He was given “corrective training” and made a presentation to his unit about why public discussions of military assignments are accessible to the "enemy."
In another ruling, Judge Lind ordered the government to hand over nearly 1,300 emails from the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. Manning's attorneys claim he was mistreated while being held at Quantico in 2010 and 2011.
Prosecutors provided the defence with 84 of those emails in July and another 600 at the beginning of this week's hearings. Among them, emails from the base's commanding general asking how often lead defence attorney David Coombs calls his client. The judge repeated asked the prosecutors why it took so long to turn over the emails. Prosecutors said they hadn't reviewed those emails earlier.
But the defence didn’t buy it. Coombs said they make "lack of diligence look like altruism".
The judge is now reviewing the rest of the emails to determine if any are relevant to the defence's case. Coombs has indicated his client will testify about the treatment he received at Quantico. This will be the first time the public will have heard from Manning. Those arguments are scheduled to begin November 27th.
At the last hearing, the judge dealt a blow to the defence's case, ruling that evidence of actual harm caused after the leaks isn't relevant to determining Manning's guilt or innocence.
Before court began on Thursday, one of the handful of Manning supporters attending the public hearing said, "We love you Bradley".
Manning offered no reaction.