The US Army announced on March 2 that it has charged 22-year-old Private First Class Bradley Manning with a further 22 charges. Manning is being held on suspicion of having leaked classified information to WikiLeaks.
One of the new charges is “aiding the enemy”. This means Manning could face the death penalty if convicted.
So far, Pentagon and military officials have found no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Manning has been held in detention at a United States Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, since he was first charged in July 2010 with disclosing classified information.
Manning’s legal representative, US Army Court Martial specialist David E. Coombs, said Manning has suffered inhumane and degrading treatment and is being held in conditions “tantamount to solitary confinement”.
Manning is being held in a six-foot-by-12-foot cell for about 23 hours a day.
On March 2, Coombs said Manning was forced to strip naked and left in his cell for seven hours. He was then forced to stand to attention naked in front of his cell for a 5am wake-up call, before a guard came to his cell to return his clothing.
No explanation was given for the treatment.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification,” Coombs said. “PFC Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight.
"No other detainee at the brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.”
In a January 24 statement, Amnesty International condemned the Obama administration’s treatment of Manning as “unnecessarily severe” and “inhumane”.
A growing number of human rights organisations, anti-war groups, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, filmmaker Michael Moore and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg are calling for Manning to be released.
On February 24, online financial transactions company PayPal disabled the account of Courage to Resist, an organisation which supports conscientious objectors and has partnered with the Bradley Manning Support Network to raise funds for Manning’s legal defence.
However, within hours of the account closure going public, more than 10,000 people signed a petition and many more phoned PayPal in protest. The company backed down and has reinstated the account.
[To find out more about the campaign visit www.bradleymanning.org .]