Bradley Manning faced harsh incarceration, pretrial court told
By PAUL KORING,The Globe and Mail -Hero or traitor, Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents and video of U.S. helicopter gunships killing civilians in Baghdad, is still waiting for his court-martial – more than 900 days after the fresh-faced private was arrested in Iraq.
At pretrial hearings this week in Ft. Meade, Md., a military court heard about the harsh conditions in which Private Manning was held after his arrest, first in Kuwait and later on U.S. military bases. He had been designated a suicide risk and kept in solitary, forced to sleep naked without covers, and put in maximum custody at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Va.
His backers say the conditions were designed to break, not protect, the young soldier. Pte. Manning has admitted that he fashioned a noose out of peach-colored sheets. At one point, he choked up, testifying in court that he didn’t tell anyone about the conditions because, “I didn’t want my family to be worried.”
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His band of supporters extol Pte. Manning as noble whistle blower. Others regard him as a misguided and gullible young Army soldier armed with a dangerously wide-ranging security clearance and access to digital archives containing military and State Department documents. Pentagon prosecutors want him put behind bars for “aiding the enemy” – in this case, al-Qaeda – a conviction that could end with a hanging, although prosecutors have said they would not seek the death penalty.
But Pte. Manning is also a pawn in a bigger game. In it, the real target is not the young soldier deployed to Iraq, but Julian Assange – the fugitive Australian now holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London – whose Wikileaks website published the material Pte. Manning is accused of stealing.
As Pte. Manning’s trial date was pushed back again last week (this time to March, 2013) there came hints of a deal – a plea bargain – that could result in his release after years, not decades. Read more…