Manning treated like 'zoo animal': Lawyer

2012-12-12 13:00

Fort Meade - In his final plea to have charges dropped against WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, a defence lawyer on Tuesday compared his harsh detention conditions to those of a "zoo animal".

Manning's solitary confinement - under 24-hour watch, forced to sleep naked in a tiny cell for all but 20 minutes a day - was "a clear violation" of the US code of military justice, defence lawyer David Coombs said.

"There was this eight-by-six [foot] [2.5m by 1.8m] cell, that was PFC [Private First Class] Manning's life," Coombs said, as both the defence and the prosecution wrapped up arguments to close off a dramatic phase of pre-trial hearings.

"Every moment of your life is going to be subjected to being watched... watched or viewed almost as a zoo animal," Coombs said.

The 24-year-old private faces a slew of charges, including "aiding the enemy", for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive US military and diplomatic documents to Julian Assange's anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.

He was arrested in May 2010 while serving as an intelligence analyst near Baghdad and subsequently charged over the largest leak of restricted documents in history.

Dropping charges

Manning was sent briefly to a US jail in neighbouring Kuwait, before being transferred to Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia in July 2010.

After nine months in the brig, he was moved in April 2011 to a US Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was allowed to interact with other detainees as detention conditions were relaxed.

During pre-trial hearings at Forte Meade in Maryland, the defence has focused on getting the charges dropped on the basis that Manning's detention conditions at Quantico were unfairly harsh.

"It was arbitrary, month after month," Coombs said. "If the conditions are not necessary that could give rise to illegal punishment," which would justify dropping all the charges, he said.

The court has heard from the full hierarchy of figures involved in Manning's incarceration - from the prison chief to the guards that kept watch over his cell.

The suspect took the stand himself, admitting he had broken down early on his detention and contemplated suicide but adding that he had recovered only for his pleas for better conditions to fall upon deaf ears.

Flashes of humour

"I had no socks, no underwear, I had no articles of clothing, I had no glasses," testified Manning, who also complained bitterly about the uncomfortable suicide-prevention smock he was made to wear.

During about five hours of testimony, Manning showed flashes of humour as he calmly recounted the severe restrictions and monotony he faced during his pre-trial confinement in both Kuwait and Quantico.

The boyish-looking soldier recounted how he was forced to stand at attention naked in his cell and encountered angry responses when he questioned his detention regime.

A US military psychiatrist testified that the draconian "prevention of injury" status was "senseless" and that commanders had totally ignored his advice to lift tough suicide watch measures earlier.

But the court also heard how Manning fashioned a noose from a bedsheet in Kuwait and had written that he was considering suicide. Manning insisted he was always thinking such thoughts but never planned to act on them.

Prosecutors, broadly-speaking, defended the harsh detention conditions, although they did concede that Manning was improperly held on suicide watch for one week and should have that time struck off his sentence.

Dismissal unlikely

In conclusion, prosecutor Ashden Fein stressed that the removal of Manning's underwear, for example, complied with government regulations and had been done out of "a legitimate interest for safety and security.

"It was the only option or to put [Manning] back to suicide watch which is the most intrusive status," he added.

Army Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the Manning case, has not said when she will rule.

Manning, who is six days shy of his 25th birthday, could spend the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted.

The next pre-trial hearing is set for 8 January. The case is expected to go to full trial in March, unless the charges are dismissed, which is considered unlikely.

  • ianmichaelcalder - 2012-12-12 13:44

    Amazing, a life sentence for a whistle blower that showed the world the ugly side of America's "liberating" war hero's. I watched the Apache footage - Nothing short of pure murder. Yet those guys aren't getting pulled all over the media, far from it in fact. Truly, there is no justice in this world.

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 13:59

      We are living in an upside down world. A warmonger gets the Nobel prize. Someone who exposes the truth behind the war, behind the media curtain is prosecuted. Saw the war log files as well. They revealed the US barbaric character.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-12 14:46

      He is not a whistle blower , he handed detailed information about the military to the enemy during a time of war. He didn't go through 'whistle-blowing ' channels and didn't discern between what he was supplying . He simply dumped huge amounts of information , which did endanger and highly likely cost lives of his fellow servicemen (put him in the general population and see justice). Neither is he a civilian , he is military and therefore subject to military law , not long ago his actions would have been cause for summary execution. He is not a victim but a purpetrator .

      ianmichaelcalder - 2012-12-12 18:05

      AllcoveredinNinjas - If I further expand on what you are saying - if he is subject to military law, and not regular citizen law like the rest of us - this immediately starts to show the major issue at stake here - The soldiers "fighting to save lives", believe they are a law unto themselves. The soldiers aren't really at fault - a few of their friends have been killed, and they seek retribution. On the other side of the fence, the other soldiers are subject to an occupying force and all that comes with - unfortunately the US soldiers are just pawns in a bigger game. I believe strongly in meeting force with force, and I believe strongly that the last war fought on the correct principals of protecting humanity was fought by the millions of brave men that opposed the Nazi regime. If the US were engaged right now trying to calm the situation in the DRC as an example, then perhaps I'd buy more into this being able things being right or wrong. Another great example is Iraq where they are happy to prevent WMD's, while they are trying their best to ask N Korea to play nicely? Lastly, Bradley would hardly have had the time to sift through what you describe as "huge amounts of information", to just send out the atrocities, nor would the normal "whistle blowing channels" have EVER let this see the light of day. He may not be the victim - the hundreds of innocents that have been killed including those poor Reuters reporters should be enough for you to realise something is wrong here.

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-13 00:23

      Commerce always follows the flag!

      supmysupmy - 2012-12-13 09:22

      AllcoveredinNinjas- so because he showed the world that the americans are actually doing bad he is aiding the enemy he didnt give the documents DIRECTLY to the enemy no..he gave it to Juliun Assange....information that world deserves! but hey now he suffers

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-13 09:37

      Ian - its doesn't change what he did , he knew what his doing and what his responsibilities were and the repercussions. Your opinions on the justness of the wars or a personal determination on whether breaches in army code would be procecuted and/or made public is irrelevant . What he did was ensure that real whistle blowers in future are going to have a far tougher time , made diplomacy and national information gathering that much harder . He has done more damage than good . Your last point is exactly THE point, no redaction or filtering to present it and expose specific injustices . It was a big dump of info . I have huge issues with the international communities handling of the DRC and would gladly talk at length about Iraq, WMD's, NKorea ect but its really not a justification for what he did. I pity him , because he is young , stupid and ignorant but he wears the uniform and should have known.

      johan.louw.399 - 2013-01-09 15:15

      ianmichaelcalder & fidelity.mcoshi : Just get your facts right!!! What he did is the same as spying by giving out information that is classified in spite the fact that he has a security clearance in the army which makes him a criminal!!!

  • johan.louw.399 - 2013-01-09 15:08

    Why is this coward useless traitor soldier still wearing the USA uniform???

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