US soldier accused of giving a dossier of secret documents to WikiLeaks is held in solitary confinement awaiting trial.
|Manning’s supporters say he should be hailed as a hero for leaking US documents instead of being put on trial [EPA]|
The US army has filed 22 new charges against the soldier accused of leaking thousands of classified documents published by the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks.
Bradley Manning is facing life in prison if found guilty to the charges which include aiding the enemy.
Manning, 23, had previously faced a host of charges including downloading and transmitting to an unauthorised
person a classified video of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters
“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private 1st Class Manning is accused of committing,” Captain John Haberland, a legal spokesman for the Military District of Washington, said on Wednesday.
The army said that if Manning were convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison, plus reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted pay grade, a dishonourable discharge and loss of all pay and allowances.
Although aiding the enemy is a capital offence under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the prosecution team has notified Manning’s defence lawyers that it will not recommend the death penalty to the general who is in charge of continuing the legal action.
Manning’s civilian attorney, David Coombs, said any charges that Manning may face at trial will be determined by an Article 32 investigation, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing or grand jury proceeding, possibly beginning in late May or early June.
Manning’s supporters were outraged.
“It’s beyond ironic that leaked US state department cables have contributed to revolution and revolt in dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, yet an American may be executed, or at best face life in prison, for being the primary whistle-blower,” Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, a California-based group that is raising funds for Manning’s defence, said.
Manning allegedly downloaded and distributed more than 250,000 confidential state department cables as well as
a deluge of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. Thousands of the documents have been published on the WikiLeaks website.
While thousands of the cables have been released, the bulk of those downloaded have not been made public.
The army has not ruled out charging others in the case, pending results of a continuing review. Army leaders have suggested that there may have been supervisory lapses that allowed the breach to occur.
Trial proceedings against Manning have been on hold since July, pending the results of a medical inquiry into Manning’s mental capacity and responsibility.
Manning is being held in maximum custody at the Marine Corps base in Virginia.
His supporters say his solitary confinement amounts to torture, and are calling on the UN to investigate.