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917 Days Later, Bradley Manning Takes the Stand

- Common Dreams staff

Following over 900 days of detention without trial, Pfc. Bradley Manning was finally asked to take the stand Thursday afternoon during a pre-trial hearing in which Manning's defense team is working to diminish the extensive accusations against him.

Bradley Manning Photo: AP As Manning spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest, he described the extreme mental distress he has endured over the course of his indefinite detention, including a time in which he thought he might die in custody as well as having suicidal thoughts early on in his detention.

"I didn't want to die but I just wanted to get out of the cage. I just remember being trapped in the cage all the time," he said, describing the prison cell he was first held in the Kuwaiti desert in which guards routinely harassed Manning.

"I remember thinking I'm going to die. I'm stuck here in this cage and I don't know what's going to happen," he said.

Manning, who was arrested after leaking military documents damning of the US government to whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, was eventually transferred to Quantico, a Marine Corps base in Virginia where he spent nine months in solitary confinement.

Manning has now been in detention without charge or trial since May 2010.

A US military psychiatrist, who testified Wednesday, told military judge Col. Denise Lind that the detention conditions Manning has endured at Quantico brig have been extremely harsh and "unprecedented." Many have said the conditions qualify as torture.

Manning's lawyers argued this week that this pre-trial imprisonment was illegal and excessive and should lead to all charges being dismissed, as he has already been punished without official charges, due process, or access to a speedy trial.

Earlier today, Judge Lind accepted the language of terms under which Manning is pleading guilty -- a plea that accepts guilt to seven charges of disseminating classified documents, which could carry a term of up to 16 years. The plea does not include the 15 counts Manning faces, including aiding the enemy, that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The ruling doesn't mean the pleas have been formally accepted -- which is likely to happen in December.

However, prosecutors could still attempt to continue prosecuting Manning for the more extreme charges, but have not stated as of yet whether they will.

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