Support WikiLeaks and Assange Coalition released this statement on July 31.
The conviction of US Private First Class Bradley Manning for 19 offences, including five counts of espionage, is a travesty of justice.
Manning is not a spy who betrayed his country, but a courageous whistleblower who acted on his conscience when he leaked US government documents to WikiLeaks.
He should have been commended, not prosecuted, for revealing evidence of war crimes, human rights abuses and corruption.
Manning is a political prisoner whose show trial was designed to draw attention away from the wrongdoing which he revealed, and to deter others from following his example.
The rules of the military court, which convicted him of all but two of the charges, were rigged against him from the outset, and the charges altered in the prosecution’s favour during the final days of his trial.
While Manning was acquitted of the capital offence of "aiding the enemy", he now faces a sentence of up to 136 years in prison, while those responsible for the crimes he revealed walk free. He has already been imprisoned for three years, 11 months of which were spent in conditions amounting to torture.
Evidence tendered by the defence during his trial showed that Manning chose not to disclose top secret documents, nor did he disclose information indiscriminately as his detractors have claimed.
Rather, he selectively leaked information because he wanted to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general”.
But the US government wants to silence such debate, and is resorting to increasingly authoritarian measures in order to do so. Manning is just one of a record number of whistleblowers to be prosecuted by the Obama administration under the US Espionage Act.
Edward Snowden, who revealed details of the US government’s vast, unconstitutional surveillance program, has become the latest to be charged under this act.
In response to Manning’s leaks, the Obama government introduced the so-called “insider threat program” in 2011. This initiative mandates government employees to report behaviour deemed to identify potential whistleblowers amongst their colleagues, and equates leaking information to the media with espionage.
The US government is increasingly targeting journalists as well as whistleblowers, including WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks has been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation since 2010 and arguments made by the prosecution during Manning’s trial show that the US government regards Assange as a co-conspirator in Manning’s “crimes”.
This is another clear indication that the US government intends to prosecute Assange for legitimate and legal publishing activities, yet the Australian government continues to refuse to defend him.
In a recent Senate budget estimates committee meeting, Foreign Minister Bob Carr was asked whether the Australian government had told the US that, as a journalist, Assange should be protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Manning’s trial and convictions have brought into sharp focus the US government’s willingness to override fundamental principles of justice in order to supress dissent and avoid accountability for its actions.
The Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition calls on the Australian government to urgently demand that the US government end its criminal investigation into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
We call on the US government to end its persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, and free Bradley Manning immediately.