US court prepares to rule in Manning case

WikiLeaks whistleblower faces possible life sentence with no chance of parole if convicted of "aiding the enemy" charge.

    Manning has acknowledged giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports [Reuters]
    Manning has acknowledged giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports [Reuters]

    The verdict in the court-martial of Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of the biggest leak
    of classified information in US history, will be read on Tuesday, the presiding judge has said.

    Manning, who is accused of spilling secrets to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website, is charged with 21 criminal counts, the most serious of which, "aiding the enemy", carries a life sentence.

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    Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who presided over Manning's court-martial in Fort Meade, Maryland and began deliberations on Friday, said she plans to read the verdict at 1pm local time on Tuesday.

    The sentencing phase is slated to begin on Wednesday.

    Manning's lawyers have maintained that he is a whistleblower, and not a traitor as the government claims. He wanted to provoke a broader debate on US military and diplomatic policy out of concern for fellow Americans, the defence asserted.

    Prosecutors said the 25-year-old intelligence analyst from Crescent, Oklahoma, aided the enemy by releasing more than 700,000 documents through WikiLeaks. They said Manning had betrayed the trust his nation put in him when he released documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Manning was arrested in May 2010 while serving in Iraq. He chose a trial by a military judge, rather than a panel of military jurors.

    In closing arguments last week, the defence portrayed Manning as a naïve whistleblower who wanted to expose war crimes. Prosecutors call him an anarchist hacker and a traitor.

    Manning has acknowledged giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and videos in late 2009 and early 2010. But he says he did not believe the information would harm troops in Afghanistan and Iraq or threaten national security.

    Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to reduced versions of some charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison for those offenses, but prosecutors pressed ahead with the original charges.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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