A day before whistleblower Chelsea Manning's release from military prison on May 17 after seven years behind bars, WikiLeaks announced it had set up a "Welcome Home Manning" fund and asked people to donate Bitcoin’s in support of the soldier imprisoned for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military documents.
Manning walked free from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after former US President Barack Obama granted her clemency in January, saying she had taken responsibility for her crime and her sentence was disproportionate to those received by other whistleblowers.
Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 classified US war reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. She received a 35-year prison sentence, by far the longest punishment ever dished out in the US for a whistleblowing conviction.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” Manning said in the statement released last week. “I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.”
Manning, previously known as Bradley Manning, changed her name shortly after her sentencing, identified as a woman and received hormone treatment while incarcerated.
“Like far too many people in prison, particularly transgender women, Chelsea Manning has had to survive unthinkable violence throughout the seven years of her incarceration,” Manning’s lawyer Chase Strangio said.
She added that the military mistreated Manning by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care, and not allowing her to wear a feminine-style haircut.
Manning filed a transgender rights lawsuit and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers.
While Manning’s court-martial conviction remains under appeal, she had been informed that she was eligible for gender-affirming surgery paid for by the government. However, if the appeal of her conviction is denied, she could be dishonourably discharged, which mandates a loss of benefits including health care.
"I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others," Manning said in the statement.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]