Closing arguments in the pretrial hearing of US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning are scheduled for Tuesday, one day after the readers of the Guardian named Manning the 2012 Person of the Year.
Manning, 24, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the WikiLeaks website, as well as a video clip of a US helicopter crew shooting and killing 11 men. He faces 22 charges including aiding the enemy, and could face life in prison.
Now in its 11th day, the pretrial hearing is to determine whether the case against Manning should be dismissed because he suffered illegal pretrial punishment during nine months he was held in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va.
Manning was held in a 6-foot by 8-foot cell for up to 23 hours a day, often without clothing. Quantico officials have argued the treatment was warranted because Manning was a danger to himself.
But brig staff, including the Head of Marine Corrections, have testified that policies were not followed during Manning's detainment and "unnecessary command influence" may have been part of the decision to hold him on "injury-prevention" status, and that they were skeptical of explanations that Manning might kill himself with his underwear.
On Thursday, Head of Marine Corrections Chief Warrant Officer Galaviz testified that Marine staff at the Quantico brig failed to follow national Marine protocol in several instances, and "ignored brig psychiatrists’ recommendations to remove PFC Manning from suicide watch, which requires constant monitoring and removal of clothing."
Jesselyn Radack, National Security and Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, wrote that Quantico Brig Officer in Charge Denise Barnes, "... against military regulations—confiscated Manning's underwear and deprived him of it every night until his departure.
Radack wrote that Barnes testified:
She wasn't concerned that he'd use the underwear to commit suicide. She was concerned with punishing him.
Barnes and her predecessor, Brig Commander James Averhart, both put their personal opinions above the sound medical evaluations of multiple mental health professionals, military regulations, and Manning's well-being, to use pre-trial detention to punish Manning, who Averhart said plucked his eyebrows and was not like the other "patriotic" prisoners. They were concerned not with Manning's health, care, protection, and dignity, but with (as they both testified) what the media might think. After 9 days of testimony (and the torture hearing is still not over), one thing is absolutely clear: Bradley Manning was never going to get off solitary confinement while he was at the gulag known as Quantico.
On Tuesday, about a dozen reporters are in the courtroom for what are expected to be the defense's closing arguments. The government will follow. A ruling is not expected this week.
But Manning's supporters are legion, and on Monday, he was named the Guardian's 2012 Person of the Year, garnering 70 percent of the votes.
In nominating him, reader Michael Meo said:
I nominate Bradley Manning. He has maintained his stance for democratic use of information, despite immense pressure put upon him physically, morally, and psychologically, by his superiors in the armed forces up to and including the President of the United states.
A series of tweets from the @Wikileaks Twitter handle telling followers to vote Manning drove thousands of supporters to the site, according to the Guardian, and Manning bested Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for defending girls' rights to education.