Immediately following a military judge's handing-down of a 35-year prison sentence for whistleblower Bradley Manning on Wednesday, his legal team held a press conference explaining their intention to continue their legal battle with an appeal for a presidential pardon or, at the very least, a commutation of the sentence by President Obama.
Human rights advocates, legal experts, and Manning supporters—outraged by what they call a "travesty of justice" and an "unprecedented" sentence—also joined the call, vowing to join the effort to win Manning's release.
Speaking at the press conference, Manning's lawyer David Coombs read a statement from the whistleblower, which will be included in the official pardon process.
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in [...]
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
Coombs said the long sentence emanated from the "highest levels" of government and said the "loser" in the case, in addition to Manning, of course, was "anyone who hopes you'll have whistleblowers in the future willing to step forward. Because this does send a message, and it's a chilling one."
Manning's lawyer also expressed concern about the severity and disproportionate nature of the sentence.
"When I heard the sentence, 35 years," Coombs said, "I think to myself – I've represented hundreds of clients. And my clients have run the gamut, from people who have committed murder to molested children. And those types of clients receive less time than Pfc Manning."
Ahead of the press conference, Amnesty International had already gone public with its advocacy of a presidential pardon.
“Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now,” said Widney Brown, Amnesty's senior director of international law and policy.
The Center for Constitutional Rights agreed, declaring, "We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning’s freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016."
Meanwhile, organizers with the Bradley Manning Support Network told Common Dreams that Manning's supporters will rally at the White House at 7:30 PM on Wednesday to demand a presidential pardon. Rallies are also planned in other cities, including Baltimore and San Francisco.
In addition, the Bradley Manning Support Network and Amnesty International launched a joint petition demanding a pardon for the whistleblower and released this video as part of their effort: