Judge reduces possible sentence for WikiLeaks suspect
FORT MEADE, Maryland (AFP) – A US judge on Tuesday reduced the potential sentence for WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning by 112 days because of his harsh treatment at a military jail, where he was held in isolation despite advice from psychiatrists.
Judge Denise Lind said the US Army private’s detention conditions were “excessive” and at times illegal, going beyond what was needed to ensure
his safety and prevent the risk of suicide.
But the judge rejected a request by defence lawyers to dismiss all charges against Manning because of his nine-month detention at the US Marine Corps prison in Quantico, Virginia.
The ruling paves the way for a trial in March in which the army private is accused of “aiding the enemy” by passing a trove of secret government files to the WikiLeaks website.
Defence attorney David Coombs had argued the court should drop all charges against Manning on the grounds that he suffered illegal punishment at the Quantico jail, where he was held in a solitary cell 23 hours a day, kept under a strict suicide watch and often ordered to strip naked.
Prosecutors had said strict measures were necessary because Manning posed a suicide risk. The judge concluded that the government had to ensure Manning did not take his life given his mental health history, as he had reported suicidal thoughts while detained in Kuwait.
“Preventing a detainee suicide is in the legitimate interest of the government,” she said.
But she ruled prison authorities at Quantico should not have kept Manning under a “rigorous” super-strict suicide watch regime after military psychiatrists advised he was not suicidal.
Prison officers had no reason to take away Manning’s underwear at one point as “no new threat” had emerged and it was “no longer reasonable to withhold the underwear,” she said.