Chelsea Manning free at last

March 18, 2020
Chelsea Manning.

Former United States soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was freed from prison on March 12, after having served nearly 10 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury set up to investigate WikiLeaks.

On March 11, Manning attempted to take her own life. She was taken to a hospital and was recovering ahead of a scheduled court appearance.

Natasha Lennard wrote in The Intercept: “While Manning’s release is vastly long overdue and most welcome, the framing and timing of the decision are galling.

“On Friday [March 13], Manning was scheduled to appear at a court hearing on a motion to end her continued imprisonment, predicated on her unshakeable resistance proving coercion to be impossible, and her incarceration therefore illegal.

“She endured months of extreme suffering, driving her to near death, but never wavered on her principled refusal to speak.

“The day before this hearing — and the day after she made an attempt on her own life — the judge ruled that Manning is ‘no longer needed’ by the grand jury.

“As her support committee noted in a statement last May, ‘Chelsea gave voluminous testimony during her court martial. She has stood by the truth of her prior statements, and there is no legitimate purpose to having her rehash them before a hostile grand jury.’”

The judge denied a motion to waive US$256,000 in fines Manning was facing, which had been accruing at $1000 a day. However, a fund established by her supporters raised $267,000 in just over 24 hours, “enough to pay the fines and associated fiscal fees”, according to Courage to Resist.

Another fund, created to help with Manning’s living expenses, reached its goal of US$30,000. It is still accepting donations.

Explaining why she was compelled to resist, Manning told the judge: “I object to this grand jury … as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good. I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them.

"For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.”

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