The US army whistleblower formerly known as Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks.
In a statement after the sentencing, Manning announced her decision to transition to life as a woman and requested to be called Chelsea.
The Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released this statement on August 22.
WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence is in addition to the three years she has already spent in prison. For 11 months of that time she was kept in conditions which the UN special rapporteur said amounted to torture.
“Manning’s sentence is a travesty of justice,” said Linda Pearson, spokesperson for the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.
“She is not a spy who betrayed her country, but a courageous whistleblower who acted on her conscience. It’s unjust in the extreme for her to be facing such a long prison sentence, while those responsible for the crimes she revealed walk free.”
Manning is just one of a record number of whistleblowers to be prosecuted by the Barack 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.
“Manning said she leaked documents to WikiLeaks because she wanted to spark a debate on the role of the military and US foreign policy, but the US government wants to silence such debate,” said Pearson.
“Whistleblowers are being punished in order to set an example to anyone else who may be tempted to challenge the authority of the US government.”
As well as whistleblowers, the US government is increasingly targeting journalists such as WikiLeaks 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”.
Pearson said: “It’s clear to everyone that the US government intends to prosecute Assange for legitimate and legal publishing activities. Yet the Australian government has consistently refused to defend him.
“Our government prefers to hide behind lies and obfuscation than take a stand for justice and free speech. We will be calling for the US government to free Manning, and to end its persecution of whistleblowers and journalists like Assange.”