Bradley Manning faces over 100 years in jail after widely guilty verdict
Bradley Manning, the former soldier who leaked over 700,000 documents, was yesterday found guilty of 17 of the 22 charges brought against him in a military court.
Manning could face a maximum of 136 years in prison despite being found not guilty of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. This sentence is on top of the 1,157 days that Manning has already spent in military jail since his arrest.
Eight of the 22 counts fell under the Espionage Act which is usually reserved for cases where spying is involved rather than the leaking of documents. Manning was found guilty of seven of these charges which has led to fears about the implications of this ruling for whistle-blowing in the future, which could in turn impact on media organisations’ and individuals’ ability to hold the US to account for wrongdoing, war-crime and torture.
A number of human rights organisations have spoken out in condemnation of the verdict, with Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, Widney Brown, saying in a statement posted on the Amnesty website:
“The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence. Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing.
It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.”
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge overseeing the trial, did agree to a 112 day reduction in recognition of the harsh treatment Manning received whilst at the Quantico military base. This seems to confirm allegations that Manning was forced to spend nearly 11 months in solitary confinement and being made to strip naked at night. Juan Mendez, the UN’s special reporter on torture, had earlier found that this treatment itself amounted to torture.
The ramifications of the verdict are certain to widely affect other instances of leaked information that are in the public interest, with Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations being the most obvious example.
Manning must now wait to see what exact sentencing he will receive in a further trial which begins tomorrow.