A US military judge has found Army private Bradley Manning "not guilty" of aiding the enemy. However, he was found guilty of 20 remaining charges, meaning that he still faces the possibility of up to 136 years behind bars. Sentencing begins tomorrow.
Sitting in the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Md., Colonel Denise Lind delivered her verdict shortly after 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. Manning had chosen to put all his faith in the judge, rather than a panel of his peers – a risky gamble that initially seemed to pay off for the 25-year-old Army intelligence analyst - the charge could have carried a life sentence without parole.
Manning's family issued a statement saying that while they are "obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way." Wikileaks expressed a similar sentiment but still aired disappointment at Manning's future possibilities.
“Well, of course I’m pleased that the judge decided to throw out the most serious charges of aiding the enemy, which of course was ludicrous” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks spokesman, told RT. “One isn’t filled with any optimism. Last week, the judge allowed the prosecution to change some of the charges on the last day of the trail.”
Sentencing begins on Wednesday at 9:30am. Some 40 witnesses will be called for this stage of the process, meaning it could potentially take the whole of August to finalize his penalty. The extent of the punishment he could still face has roused upset from human rights and justice organizations.
"Those responsible for the war crimes remain free"
"The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence...yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behavior by the government," said Amnesty International's Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Widney Brown, in a statement shortly after the verdict was read.
“The Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning,” said the Center for Constitutional Rights in a statement.
“We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free,” it admonished.
Index on Censorship also jumped to condemn the guilty verdicts, saying that Manning "leaked files in order to inform the world about what really happened during the Iraq War to no personal gain." Sean Gallagher, its editor, urged the court to "show leniency" when sentencing Manning tomorrow.
Protesters rallying in support of the whistleblower gathered outside the Military Recruiting Office on Tuesday, holding signs and posters that described Manning as a hero. Chanting “Free Bradley Manning” and “Three Years is Enough,” the activists stood outside the Fort Meade courtroom in the hours leading up to the verdict.
In the days leading up to the verdict, celebrities, public thinkers and European Parliamentarians all voiced support for Manning and urged the president to free him. Over the weekend, protesters in 40 cities throughout the world took part in an “International Day of Action” to call for Manning’s liberation. “Exposing war crimes is not a crime,” and “Bradley Manning: hero not criminal,” were some of the bold statements displayed on the signs. Wearing “truth” t-shirts and waving signs, the group of loyal "truth-activists" proclaimed their respect for the young Army intelligence analyst, and celebrated Col. Lind’s decision.
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