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Amnesty Urges Help for WikiLeaks Suspect, Bradley Manning

LONDON – Amnesty International urged Britain to help ease the "harsh and punitive" detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of leaking information to WikiLeaks.

The rights group put pressure on the British government Tuesday to ensure that the army private's detention conditions adhered to international standards after it emerged that the soldier's Welsh mother made him a British citizen.

"His (Manning's) Welsh parentage means the UK government should demand his 'maximum custody' status does not impair his ability to defend himself," Amnesty's UK director, Kate Allen, said.

"We would also like to see Foreign Office officials visiting him just as they would any other British person detained overseas and potentially facing trial on very serious charges," she added.

Extracts from a new Guardian book, "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's war on secrecy," detailed how the soldier spent four years in Wales after his parents split up in 2001.

In another excerpt, published in Wednesday's Guardian, it is claimed that Manning "spends 23 hours a day alone in a six foot (1.8 metre) by 12 foot cell, with one hour's exercise in which he walks figures-of-eight in an empty room."

"Manning's friends say he is being subject to near-torture in an effort to break him and have him implicate (Julian) Assange in a conspiracy charge," the passage continued.

Manning, 23, is charged with eight violations of federal criminal law, including transmitting classified information to a third party, and two counts under military law stemming from the first WikiLeaks release last year.

He has not been charged in connection with the release of diplomatic cables late last year by WikiLeaks, but attention has focused on his role.

Held since July at a military brig at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia, Manning has been placed under a maximum security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.

WikiLeaks founder Assange is due to appear in court in London on February 7-8 as he fights efforts by Sweden to secure his extradition to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

According to the book, Manning became disillusioned with the army while serving in Iraq when an officer discarded his advice over the detention of 15 Iraqis who had been arrested for printing "anti-Iraqi literature."

The book claimed that Manning boasted he was able to download the information unnoticed as his fellow intelligence workers had "grown bored and disenchanted from the relentless grind of 14-hour days, seven days a week."

Immediate commanders of Manning defied a mental health expert's recommendation that he not be deployed to Iraq, The Washington Post reported online Tuesday.

Manning was not disqualified from deployment from his base at Fort Drum, New York, where experts said he exhibited behavioral problems, the report said.

"The final decision on whether a soldier is fit to go to a war zone rests with his immediate commanders," the Post said, citing an unnamed military official said, adding that an Army probe found the decision to not heed the advice could have contributed to the massive classified documents leak.

Separate from the ongoing criminal probe, "the Army investigation ... found that Manning's immediate supervisors did not follow procedures for overseeing the secure area where the classified information was kept, greatly increasing the risk of a security breach," the Post said citing the unnamed official.

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