Lawyers for WikiLeaks suspect urge dismissal

Defence team for US soldier Bradley Manning argues that case was mishandled by prosecutors and must now be thrown out.

Bradley Manning charged
Prosecutors say Manning downloaded more than 700,000 confidential documents and passed them onto to WikiLeaks [Reuters]

Lawyers for US soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking secret documents to the WikiLeaks website, have argued for the dismissal of all charges against their client at a pre-trial hearing.

Attorneys for the 24-year-old US army private filed motions on Tuesday asking a military judge to throw out all or some of the 22 counts that allege their client passed along a massive trove of classified documents to the secret-spilling website.

Manning’s defence team says that prosecutors have utterly failed to meet their obligations to share relevant information with them and that therefore the whole case must be thrown out. 

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, said Manning’s lawyers have argued “there just isn’t enough evidence” for prosecutors to prove their case. 

She said though few expect the charges to be dismissed, the final outcome cannot be known until a  judge’s ruling is made.

“I’ve learned from watching jugdes in courtrooms over many years that you never know until a judge actually issues an exact ruling on what he or she thinks can be done in a particular case,” said our correspondent.

Manning is accused of giving WikiLeaks a massive trove of US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, 260,000 classified state department cables, Guantanamo detainee assessments and videos of US air strikes.

Trained on various intelligence systems, Manning served in Iraq from November 2009 until his arrest the following May.

‘Criminal intent’

The anti-secrecy website began releasing the military documents in July 2010. It dumped the entire archive of diplomatic documents in September 2011, causing huge embarrassment to Washington.

At this military base northeast of Washington, Manning’s lawyers also plan to challenge the most serious charge: that the former intelligence analyst was “aiding the enemy” by allegedly leaking sensitive documents, saying there is no
evidence that shows their client had “criminal intent”.

“PFC Manning expressly disclaimed any intent to help any enemy of the United States” in his online chat logs, his defence lawyer, David Coombs, wrote in a defence motion.

The government is not claiming that Manning intended to give intelligence to al-Qaeda but that he understood that if the information was published, it “might be accessible to the enemy and that such information might help the enemy”, Coombs wrote.

The “aiding the enemy” charge, known as Article 104, carries a possible death sentence.

The defence lawyers are also seeking to have other charges dismissed on grounds that single criminal violations are being prosecuted as multiple offences.

Washington embarrassed

Military prosecutors reject the defence lawyers’ arguments, saying they have complied with their discovery obligations to share pertinent documents in the case.

And they say that even if they have failed in that task, the judge can remedy any problems without throwing out the whole case.

A court-martial date has yet to be set and Manning so far has declined to enter a plea on the counts he faces in a case that involves one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.

The leak of the military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables exposed the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior US officials.

The episode embarrassed the US government, and officials said the document dump threatened national security and the lives of foreigners working with the military and US embassies.

WikiLeaks supporters view the site as a whistleblower that exposed US wrongdoing and see Manning as a political prisoner.

Source: News Agencies