The civilian lawyer representing Pfc. Bradley Manning has asked a military court to reduce any possible sentence by at least 7 years due to harsh treatment while in custody.
Indeed, Manning was held at the Quantico marine base in Virginia following his arrest in May 2010 at a military base near Baghdad.
For the next 8 months, the Pfc. was subjected to extraordinarily harsh conditions – supposedly for his own protection under a so-called “prevention of injury” order or POI. According to defense attorney David Coombs, the former army intelligence analyst was held in solitary confinement, stripped naked, confined to a bare cell and made to wear a rough smock at night.
In documents submitted to the military court, Coombs argues that a recently disclosed stash of emails illustrates how military commanders in the brig completely ignored the professional advice of psychiatrists and other medical experts who had examined Manning and found him at no risk to himself and others.
Instead, the brig commanders allegedly said “we will do whatever we want to do” and pressed ahead with harsh conditions that some critics, including the UN, define as torture.
The former army intelligence analyst currently faces a total of 22 charges – including aiding the enemy – after thousands of classified documents allegedly downloaded by the soldier ended up on WikiLeaks.
A full court martial, which will be presided over by military judge Denise Lind, is slated to be held between February 4 and March 15. If found guilty, Bradley Manning is likely to spend the rest of his life in a military brig without the possibility of parole.
Although the Pentagon appears set on making an example out of Manning, a number of organizations, activists and artists have leapt to the defense of the former army analyst, claiming the Pfc. shouldn’t be punished for his role in leaking secret documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It should be noted that Manning has been in custody for almost three years without trial – which is far longer than the 120-day period normally allowed under military rules.