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Lawyers: Bradley Manning Already Punished for Unproven Crimes

24-year-old accused of releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks

Common Dreams staff

A rally outside the gates of Fort Meade on Dec. 17, 2011, to bring media awareness to the growing movement supporting PFC Bradley Manning. At front, left to right, are political spokespeople attorney Kevin Zeese, LGBTQ activist Lt. Dan Choi and retired US Diplomat Col Ann Wright. Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg joined the group of supporters at the hearing later in the week. (Photo: Bradley Manning Support Network via Flickr)

Three months before Bradley Manning is scheduled to face a court martial, and more than two years after his arrest, lawyers for 24-year-old Army Private First Class say the intelligence analyst accused of releasing classified documents to Wikileaks has already been punished for yet unproven charges, including violation of the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy.

Manning is accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of classified documents which were published on Wikileaks that show the killing of unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists by a US Apache helicopter in Iraq, McClatchy reports.

The exposed Baghdad attack left 12 dead. In a video, the American helicopter crew can be heard laughing and referring to Iraqi dead as "dead bastards."

Manning is also accused of sharing the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs and a series of embarrassing US diplomatic cables, in violation of military regulations, which the website says "have illuminated such issues as the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq, along with a number of human rights abuses by US-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and role that spying and bribes play in international diplomacy."

Earlier this month, Manning acknowledged that he was the source of the documents as "an act of conscience," and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He faces 22 charges and is scheduled for a court martial in February 2013.

But from July 2010 to April 2011, Manning was held in solitary confinement at the US marine corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia.

The Baltimore Sun reports today that Manning's lawyers allege that during that time:

Manning was held in 'the functional equivalent of solitary confinement: 'Confined to a six-by-eight-foot cell, with no window or natural light, for more than 23  and a half hours each day. He was awakened at 5 a.m. each morning and required to remain awake until 10 p.m., his lawyers say. He was not permitted to lie on his bed or lean against the cell wall. He was not allowed to exercise in his cell.

If guards found him asleep during five-minute checks, they awakened him.

Lawyers argue that such "egregious" treatment of an as-yet-untried suspect, despite testimony by psychiatrists who said he presented no risk to himself and that the treatment was causing him psychological harm, is illegal pretrial punishment and violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice and US Constitution.

The British government and Amnesty International spoke out against his treatment, with Amnesty International calling conditions "unnecessarily severe and amount(ing) to inhumane treatment by US authorities."

"Manning has not been convicted of any offense, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention," the human rights group said. "This undermines the United States' commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence."

In July, UN torture investigator Juan Mendez accused the US government of harsh treatment of Manning that may amount to torture.

Since the Quantico brig was closed in December 2011, Manning has been in medium-security confinement in Fort Leavenworth, the Baltimore Sun reports.

McClatchy reports that Dwight H. Sullivan, a former Marine Corps attorney who now teaches military law at George Washington University, says military law allows for the dismissal of charges against a suspect who is found to have been punished before trial— but such cases are rare.

Manning may begin testifying as a witness in pre-trial hearings as soon as Tuesday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

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