A military judge Tuesday potentially reduced the sentence of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning—accused of sending massive amounts of government and military documents to WikiLeaks—because he suffered illegal punishment during his imprisonment.
In a pretrial hearing, Col. Denise Lind, chief judge of the First Judicial Circuit of the U.S. Army Trial Judiciary, ruled that Manning should have 112 days shaved off of any prison sentence handed down in his case, citing illegal forms of punishment that he endured during the nine months he spent at a Marine Corps jail in Quantico, Va., reported The Associated Press.
Specifically, Manning was confined to a windowless, 6-by-8 cell for 23 hours per day and was at times without any clothing. Officials said that those measures were to prevent the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst from hurting himself or others.
In November, Manning described his experience at the Quantico prison as being like “an animal in a cage.” He added at the hearing, “I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die. I’m stuck inside this cage.’”
At Quantico, he was kept on suicide watch or injury prevention for months. At night, he was stripped of his clothes and forced to sleep inside a “suicide smock” gown, reported The Washington Post.
During another hearing, Manning testified that he recalled making a noose to hang himself while he was jailed in Kuwait in July 2010, right after he was arrested for allegedly leaking documents to WikiLeaks, reported Politico.
But during Tuesday’s hearing, Lind said she found that his confinement was “more rigorous than necessary,” noting that conditions “became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests,” the AP report said.
Manning has been aiming to get the charges against him dropped because he suffered unjust punishment while waiting in confinement for his trial, which is slated to begin in March.
During Manning’s pretrial hearing, the judge will hear arguments as to whether it is necessary to include his motivation for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents and war logs. The prosecution is looking to prevent a judge from hearing evidence used by the defense.
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, said that the evidence is necessary because it allows for the argument that Manning leaked information he believed would not be used to harm the United States. Prosecutors argue that it does not matter because he knew that it could have been seen by al-Qaeda.
Manning faces a slew of charges including aiding the enemy, which could carry a life sentence.
“There’s been no case in the entire history of military jurisprudence that dealt with somebody providing information to a legitimate journalistic organization and having them publish it and that involved dealing with the enemy,” Coombs said Tuesday, reported Politico.
Prosecutor Capt. Angel Overgaard argued, however, “Publishing information in a newspaper [can] indirectly convey information to the enemy.”
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