The military hearing of alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning began Friday at Fort Meade in Maryland and continued over the weekend. Manning has been detained for more than a year and a half and could face up to 23 counts of violating military code.
The 24-year-old is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified U.S. documents in history. Army prosecutors have signaled they will not recommend the death penalty in the event of Manning’s conviction, but they could be overruled.
The issues raised during the trial so far include the lax computer security at the military base in Iraq where Manning was stationed and Manning’s emotional stability and anxieties around his sexual orientation. “It’s important to say that all this [Manning’s sexuality and state of mind] area is being raised by Manning’s own defense lawyer at this hearing.
It is the case that the defense is pushing. Now, we have to be careful at this stage, because this is not a trial, and we cannot say this is what the defense will do at a court-martial.
They may be doing it for other reasons, that they want to get more evidence, they want to get disclosure out of the prosecution, which they will then use in a different way at the trial,” says Ed Pilkington, a correspondent for The Guardian, who has been reporting from the pretrial hearings for the last three days. “All the evidence so far has been that the defense is likely to press a mitigating argument, that Manning was under extreme emotional stress at the time that the leaks happened, that there was an extraordinary — and the evidence that we’ve already heard from people who worked with Manning inside his intelligence unit, there was undoubtedly an almost astonishing lack of control over soldiers.”
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