November 30, 2012

Bradley Manning takes stand at Wikileaks hearing

The US Army private charged over the biggest security breach in US history has testified on the third day of a hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Bradley Manning, 24, answered questions relating to his treatment after his arrest in Baghdad, Iraq, in May 2010.

His lawyer is arguing that Pte Manning was treated unfairly in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia.

Pte Manning is attempting to plead guilty to some charges of sending secret documents to Wikileaks.

But he is seeking to avoid trial for more serious crimes relating to the data breach to the whistle-blowing website.

Reporters at court on Thursday said Pte Manning seemed nervous, swivelling in his chair and stuttering as he testified.

Before he was sent to Quantico, he spent weeks in a cell at Camp Arifjan, an Army installation in Kuwait.

There, Pte Manning said he remembered thinking: "I'm going to die, I'm stuck inside this cage."
Guards found a noose in Pte Manning's cell, but he said he could not even remember having made it because he was so confused.

He told the court: "My nights were my days and my days were my nights. It all blended together after a couple of days."

He also testified that he received little information from a defence lawyer, news agency AFP reported.

Pte Manning said he soon had suicidal thoughts, which he conveyed to mental health counsellors.

"I had pretty much given up. My world had just shrunk," he said.

Pte Manning's defence lawyers say charges against him should be dismissed because of the harsh conditions he faced at the maximum-security prison in Quantico.

He was locked up alone for 23 hours a day in a small cell for nearly nine months, and had to sleep naked for several nights.

The military has said Pte Manning was treated properly, and was considered to pose a risk to himself and others.
Toilet paper requests

On Wednesday, Captain William Hocter, a Navy doctor who evaluated Pte Manning nearly every week at Quantico, told the court the suicide watch was "senseless".

He said commanders had completely ignored his advice to lift the tough measures.
Pte Manning's glasses were confiscated, he had to request toilet paper and was forced to remove his underwear at night.

Earlier on Thursday, the case judge accepted the terms under which Pte Manning would plead guilty to eight charges for sending classified documents to Wikileaks.

He could face up to 16 years in prison for those charges.

Col Denise Lind's ruling does not mean the pleas have been formally accepted.

The caches of leaked material published by Wikileaks contained video footage from military operations and classified documents.

These included details of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as thousands of state department cables.

Pte Manning is also charged with 14 other counts, including aiding the enemy, a charge for which he could face life in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutors have alleged that Pte Manning was in email contact with Wikileaks' Australian-born founder, Julian Assange.

Mr Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden from Britain for questioning in a sexual assault case, took refuge six months ago in London's Ecuadorean embassy, where he remains.

He says the Swedish case against him could be part of a plot to have him extradited to the US and either executed or imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.

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