US soldier Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.
Manning will also be dishonourably discharged from the military, a military judge ruled on Wednesday.
He could have been sentenced to up to 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for at least 60 years. Manning’s lawyer suggested no more than 25 because by then, some of the documents Manning leaked will be declassified.
The judge convicted the 25-year-old last month of 20 offenses, including six violations of the Espionage Act.
Manning would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence, which will be reduced by the time he has already served in prison plus 112 days.
Manning leaked about 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and US State Department diplomatic cables in 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He also leaked video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad in which at least nine people were killed, including a Reuters news photographer.
Manning’s defence argued that his aim had been to “spark a broader debate” on the role of the US military and make Americans aware of the nature of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to defence testimony, military supervisors ignored erratic behavior on the part of Manning which included trying to grab a gun during a counseling session.
They really wanted to not only punish Manning himself but set an example for other people to make sure this does not happen again in the future.
Last week, Manning apologised to the court for what he had done, saying “I understand I must pay a price for my decisions.”
Manning’s attorney David Coombs will also ask for a pardon from US President Barack Obama, The Bradley Manning Support Network, a group backing the soldier said.
Amnesty International’s observer Justin Mazzola told Al Jazeera that the rights group had been expecting a tough sentence based on what the prosecution had been asking for.
He said that it was a tough sentence compared the previous cases of soldiers who leaked government secrets and that it seemed that the government wanted to make an example of Manning and “crucify” WikiLeaks.
“They really wanted to not only punish Manning himself but set an example for other people to make sure this does not happen again in the future,” he said.
Manning, in uniform, stood quietly showing no emotion as Judge Colonel Denise Lind read his sentence during a brief court proceeding at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Lind said Manning would be demoted to private, from private first class, and dishonorably discharged from the US military.
Also, that his sentence would be reduced by the three years he has served in prison, plus the 112 days she had already decided to subtract because of the harsh treatment the soldier suffered after his arrest three years ago.
Manning will be imprisoned at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.