Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify on WikiLeaks

2019-03-15 23:04
This booking photo provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, in Virginia, shows Chelsea Manning. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via AP)

This booking photo provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, in Virginia, shows Chelsea Manning. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via AP)

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Former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in prison for leaking one of the largest troves of classified documents in the United States history, has been sent to jail again for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

US District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Manning, who served in Iraq, to jail for contempt of court on Friday after a brief hearing in which Manning confirmed she has no intention of testifying. She told the judge she "will accept whatever you bring upon me".

Manning has said she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process, and that she already revealed everything she knows at her court martial.

The judge said she will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.

Manning's lawyers had asked that she be sent to home confinement instead of jail, because of medical complications she faces. 

The judge said US marshals can handle her medical care. Prosecutor Tracy McCormick said the jail and the marshals have assured the government that her medical needs can be met.

Expected imprisonment

Manning anticipated being jailed. In a statement before Friday's hearing, she said she invoked her First, Fourth and Sixth amendment protections when she appeared before the grand jury in Alexandria on Wednesday. 

She said she already answered every substantive question during her 2013 court martial, and is prepared to face the consequences of refusing to answer again.

"In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available," she said.

Manning served seven years of a 35-year military sentence for espionage and other crimes because she furnished more than 70 000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, an organisation that publishes information from anonymous sources, before then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence. She was released in May 2017.

The WikiLeaks investigation has been ongoing for a long time. Last year, prosecutors in Alexandria inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing unspecified, sealed criminal charges in the district. 

WikiLeaks and Mueller's probe

WikiLeaks has emerged as an important part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian meddling into the 2016 presidential election, as investigators focus on whether Donald Trump's campaign knew Russian hackers were going to provide emails to WikiLeaks stolen from Democratic organisations, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign.

But there is no indication that the Alexandria grand jury's investigation of WikiLeaks is related to the Mueller investigation.

Prosecutor McCormick said Manning can easily end this incarceration on the civil charge simply by following the law and testifying.

"We hope she changes her mind now," McCormick said.

Manning's lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen said she believes jailing Manning is an act of cruelty given her medical issues, and said there are many documented issues of jails and prisons providing inadequate medical care for transgender inmates. She said Manning's one-bedroom apartment would be a sufficient manner of confinement.

Outside the court, about 10 protesters rallied in her support.

"Obviously prison is a terrible place," Meltzer-Cohen said. "I don't see the purpose to incarcerate people."

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Read more on:    wikileaks  |  chelsea manning  |  us
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