Petitioners challenge WikiLeaks trial restrictions

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has filed a petition asking the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to release various documents related to the upcoming US military trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning.

The petition also challenges the fact that substantive legal matters in the court martial – including a pretrial publicity order – have been argued and decided in secret.

“Public scrutiny plays a vital role in government accountability. Media access to the Manning trial proceedings and documents is critical for the transparency on which democratic government and faith in our justice system rests,” explained CCR legal director Baher Azmy.

“Portions of the hearings themselves have been open to a small number attorneys and press, but the Manning proceedings have been open in name only.”

Fellow petitioner Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, expressed similar sentiments. 

“We believe citizens have a right to know what their government is doing,” she wrote. 

”It is therefore vital that the media covering Pfc. Bradley Manning’s court martial be able to view documents filed in public proceedings.”

Manning is facing a total of 22 charges – including aiding the enemy – after thousands of classified documents downloaded by the former army intelligence analyst ended up on WikiLeaks.

 A full court-martial is scheduled for September.

If found guilty, Manning, who is awaiting trial in Fort Leavenworth, will likely spend the rest of his life in the brig.

 Nevertheless, the former army intelligence analyst is reportedly in “surprisingly good humor.”

“He seems to be in good spirits, and quite optimistic about his case – he’s not letting anything get him down as far as I can tell. He feels good that people haven’t forgotten him,” Manning’s aunt told the UK-based Guardian. 

“[Of course], the situation in Fort Leavenworth is night and day compared to [solitary confinement in] Quantico. He has freedom of movement and access to books and TV… When I’m talking to him, he’ll often mention something political that’s going on around the world; he’s definitely keeping up with what’s going on.”