*** WE ARE ALL ONE
Military Judge Hands Bradley Manning 35 Years
Stephen Cook/ Golden Age Gaia: The severity of this sentence was originally listed at over 135 years. At this rate it wont be long before he truly is a free man – as many hope and wish for.
US Army Private Bradley Manning could be freed within a decade after being sentenced to 35 years in jail for handing over to WikiLeaks files that formed the biggest breach of official secrets in American history.
The sentence, which followed a months-long trial that laid bare the scale of the 25-year-old soldier’s access to government information – was slightly more than half the 60 year term that prosecutors had pushed for.
Manning appeared ashen-faced moments before he heard his fate in a courtroom at Fort Meade military base in Maryland, close to the US capital. But his lawyer said Manning kept his composure after being sentenced, comforting his own legal team when they broke down in tears.
David Coombs, the civilian who led Manning’s team, said Manning looked at him and said: “It’s OK. It’s all right, don’t worry about it. I know you did your best. It’s OK. I’m gonna be OK. I’m gonna get through this.”
Later, in a statement read by his lawyer, Manning said: “It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people.”
Military judge Colonel Denise Lind delivered her verdict in a less than two-minute statement in which she said the soldier would be demoted from Private First Class to Private E1 status, and later dishonourably discharged.
Under military law Manning is eligible for parole on completion of one third of his sentence. His jail time will be shortened by a total of 1,293 days on account of the more than three years he has already served, which means he could be freed in nine years.
Civil liberties groups condemned the sentence, but WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website headed by Julian Assange, hailed it as a “significant strategic victory.”
Manning was convicted of espionage and other crimes last month, having earlier admitted being the source of hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and confidential US diplomatic cables.
Publication of the documents caused deep embarrassment to the United States and rankled American allies, prompting warnings from US officials that troops and intelligence sources had been jeopardised.
The 35-year jail term will be considered especially important as another leaker – the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, currently in Russia – is wanted in the United States on espionage charges, having disclosed details of the National Security Agency’s secret electronic monitoring operations.
Army lawyers had pressed for a much longer sentence, arguing that significantly more jail time would send a message to people contemplating the theft of classified information.
Lead defense attorney David Coombs, however, appealed for leniency for his client. He said Manning had expressed remorse, cooperated with the court and deserved a chance to have a family and one day walk free.
Under military law Manning’s sentence will automatically be reviewed in the Army Court of Criminal Appeal.
Mr Coombs said his client was stoic but he and other lawyers cried when they gathered in private soon after the judgment was read out.
“Myself and others were in tears, because this means a lot to us,” Mr Coombs said.
The lawyer confirmed that next week he would begin the process of seeking a presidential pardon for the soldier.
President Barack Obama, Mr Coombs said, should “at the very least commute his sentence to time served.”
“This fight is not over. My representation of him at a court martial may end but my representation of him in ensuring that he one day, and one day very soon, walks out of Fort Leavenworth has only just begun,” said Mr Coombs of Manning.
He then read out a statement on Manning’s behalf in which the soldier reiterated that he felt he did the right thing in handing over hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and battlefield reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks.
“It was never my intent to hurt anyone,” he said. “I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”
In regards to his immediate future, Manning added: “If you deny my request for a pardon I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”
Manning was a junior intelligence analyst at a US base near Baghdad when he handed over the data – about 700,000 documents – to WikiLeaks.
He was arrested in Iraq in 2010 and has since been in military custody.
The years-long legal process that finally culminated in his conviction and sentencing offered an astonishing view inside the young soldier’s mind before, during and after he was deployed in Iraq.
The most notorious material that he brought to light was a video file, dubbed “Collateral Murder” by WikiLeaks, showing graphic cockpit footage of two US Apache attack helicopters opening fire and killing 12 people in Baghdad in 2007.
Manning, a hero to supporters who regard him as a whistleblower who lifted the lid on America’s foreign policy, openly condemned the remarks of the pilots, who had branded the victims “dead bastards.”
Though found guilty of 20 of the 22 offences leveled against him, Manning was cleared of the most serious charge – “aiding the enemy,” chiefly al-Qa’ida. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for Manning’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the sentence was sad for Manning but also sad “for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”
“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” they added in a statement.
Expert witnesses testified during the sentencing phase of Manning’s trial that the soldier was confused about his gender and sexuality and under enormous psychological stress at the time he committed the leaks.
Manning also apologised. He told Colonel Lind during a hearing last week: “I’m sorry that my actions have hurt people and have hurt the United States.”
Statement by Julian Assange on Bradley Manning’s Sentence
Today the well-known whistleblower Bradley Manning has been ordered by a military court in Maryland to spend a minimum of 5.2 years in prison with a 32 year maximum (including time already spent in detention), for revealing information about US government behaviour to the public.This hard-won minimum term represents a significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning’s defense, campaign team and supporters. At the start of these proceedings, the United States government had charged Bradley Manning with a capital offence and other charges carrying over 135 years of incarceration. His defense team is now appealing to the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals in relation to this sentence and also for due process violations during the trial.While the defense should be proud of their tactical victory, it should be remembered that Mr Manning’s trial and conviction is an affront to basic concepts of Western justice. On Mr Manning’s arrest in May 2010, he was immediately subjected to punitive incarceration by the US government, which was found to be “cruel, inhumane and degrading” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and even found to be unlawful by US military courts.The period Mr Manning has already spent in prison will be subtracted from the sentence, and dispensations for good behaviour, parole and other factors mean that it is likely he will now spend less than ten years in confinement. Mr Manning’s defense team are now seeking to reduce this sentence further on appeal. US military law stipulates that the sentence can only be reduced. It is important that support for Bradley Manning continues during this time.The only just outcome in Mr Manning’s case is his unconditional release, compensation for the unlawful treatment he has undergone, and a serious commitment to investigating the wrongdoing his alleged disclosures have brought to light.Mr Manning’s treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light. This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven. Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings.
From: AFP – August 22, 2013http://tinyurl.com/kbhtc87
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