|Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement at a US Marine prison [File: EPA]
The United States military has denied mistreating an army private suspected of passing hundreds of thousands of classified US documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
Bradley Manning has been held in solitary confinement at a US Marine prison near Washington since July after being charged with eight counts under federal law, including transmitting classified information to a third party, and two counts under military law.
But Colonel Dave Lapan, a US defence department spokesman, said on Friday that Manning has the same privileges as all other prisoners held in what the military calls "maximum custody".
He said Manning is in a standard single-person cell and gets exercise, recreation, access to newspapers and visitors.
Lapan described as "blatantly false" the accusations of mistreatment which have appeared in the US media in recent days.
The California-based Courage to Resist project has described the conditions in which Manning is being held as "a form of punishment prior to conviction".
Jeff Paterson, the director of the project, which supports troops who refuse to fight, said people who have visited Manning report that he spends at least 23 hours a day alone in a cell no larger than about six square metres.
He told the Huffington Post that Manning is "very annoyed" at the conditions of his confinement.
"He sits in this small box, for the most part only to take a shower - he just sits and eats and four months have gone by."
Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and author, wrote on Salon.com that the solitary confinement conditions "constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture".
The "accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries," even though he has not been convicted of any crime, Greenwald said when he appeared on the MSNBC television network on Friday.
Firmness and fairness'
But officials at the military brig at Quantico Marine base insisted that Manning was being treated humanely.
|WikiLeaks has so far refused to confirm if Manning leaked documents to the website [EPA]
"What I will tell you is that he is not treated any differently than any other maximum confinement detainee," First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, a prison spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
Inmates at the brig "are treated with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion," Villiard said. But, he added: "It's no Shangri-la."
Manning has access to newspapers, is within speaking range of other inmates in his wing, is permitted visitors and chooses from the same food menu as his fellow prisoners.
But under the maximum security rules, Manning is barred from the mess hall and must take his meals in his solitary cell, while prison authorities have decided not to issue him cotton sheets, he said.
Instead, the brig officers have provided two blankets and a pillow made of material that cannot be torn into pieces - as a "precaution," according to Villiard.
WikiLeaks website has yet to disclose its source for the massive trove of classified US military and diplomatic documents published in recent months, but suspicion has focused on Manning, who worked as an army intelligence analyst.
Julian Assange, the website's founder, said on Friday that he "had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press".
"WikiLeaks technology [was] designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material."
On Thursday, Assange was released on bail in the United Kingdom where is awaiting an extradition hearing after Sweden requested his arrest over sex abuse allegations.
The WikiLeaks founder has said he believes that the US is preparing an indictment against him.