Trial Kicks Off for Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks Informer

Three years after his arrest in Iraq for one of the most important leaks of confidential documents in American history, soldier Bradley Manning will appear on Monday in martial court for a trial that his supporters have already marked as historical.

“The trial of the century is about to begin,” proclaimed the Bradley Manning Support Network on the eve of the opening arguments. It will last for a period close to three months, on the Fort Meade (Maryland) base, not too far from the capital, Washington D.C.

The simple soldier, with his frail body and adolescent face, risks life imprisonment as the result of this trial before military judge Denise Lind.

He is accused of “aiding the enemy,” in this case the terrorist organization al-Qaida, by providing thousands of American military documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to WikiLeaks, as well as 250,000 State Department dispatches.

The American government maintains that Private Manning “knowingly” put the United States in danger when he transmitted the secret documents that he had access to in the course of his duties as an information analyst in Iraq from November 2009 until his arrest in May 2010.

The government must prove these allegations during the trial, as ordered by the judge during the preparations for the hearing process.

The young 25-year-old man has taken “full responsibility” for his actions but categorically denies having the intent of “harming” the United States. “I believed that the publication [of the documents] could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general,” he said before the judge during one of his two interventions with the media present.

He will plead guilty to 10 charges but considers himself innocent of the charges of “aiding the enemy” or “wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it was accessible to the enemy,” the weightiest of the 22 charges.

“Cruel” Incarceration Conditions

He has acknowledged “the intentional transmission” of a video showing the blunder of a combat helicopter firing on civilians in Iraq in July 2007, along with memorandums related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Guantanamo prisoners.

With this plea of partially guilty, the maximum sentence is reduced from 162 years to 154 years.

The martial court trial, scheduled to last until Aug. 23, is expected to attract a daily gathering of supporters in front of the Fort Meade military base.

This support network is demonstrating against the “snail’s pace” at which the soldier is being tried, according to Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs. He also denounced the blanket of secrecy that surrounds the debates and media coverage.

Judge Lind has already announced that 24 witnesses, including several ambassadors, Pentagon officials and intelligence figures, will speak in a closed hearing. She has warned them that she will forbid pleas geared toward a general discussion on American foreign policy.

A witness called by the prosecution, a member of the squad that participated in the raid against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, will also give testimony behind closed doors. This soldier will appear “partially disguised” and in a “secure location” to speak on the documents released by WikiLeaks and found in bin Laden’s hideout, testifying that the documents had indeed gotten into al-Qaida’s hands.

A symbol of peace, according to his supporters, Bradley Manning claims that as a homosexual he was a victim of jokes in the military. He has been subject to solitary confinement for close to nine months in Quantico military prison, in conditions that the U.N. special rapporteur on torture qualifies as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

The military judge granted him nearly four months remission of sentence due to these conditions of incarceration being “more rigorous than necessary.”

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