Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison
A military judge has sentenced US Army Private Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking classified material to Wikileaks.
He was also dishonourably discharged from the Army, busted from private first class to private and will forfeit all pay and allowances.
Manning has built up credit of three and a half years of pre-trial jail time, including 112 days that were given to him after the judge ruled he was “illegally punished” while being held at US Marine base Quantico, reducing his sentence to around 33 years. The Wikileaker has to serve at least a third of his jail sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.
The 25-year-old private first class had been facing up to 90 years in prison for leaking over 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic cables, along with the video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad in which a Reuters news photographer and his driver were killed.
The soldier was cleared of the serious charge of “aiding the enemy”, which carries the death penalty, but was found guilty of 20 further charges related to accessing and handing over the documents.
Prosecutors had pushed for at least 60 years of jail time, saying that a longer sentence would dissuade other soldiers from a similar course of action, The Guardian, Associated Press and others reported.
But Manning’s defence attorney David Coombs asked for a sentence of no more than 25 years, one that wouldn’t “rob him of his youth”.
Manning told the court in February that he leaked the information in order to “spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general”.
While the prosecution has claimed that his leaks endangered military and diplomatic lives and risked national security, Coombs has consistently painted Manning as a naive youth whose disillusionment with his military life led to the leaks.
Under military law, the verdict and sentence have to be reviewed by the commander of the military district of Washington, currently Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, who could reduce the sentence. Because the sentence includes a dishonourable discharge and confinement for a year or more, the case will be automatically reviewed by the army court of criminal appeals.
Further appeals can be made to the US court of appeals for the armed forces, and the Supreme Court.
Coombs is scheduled to give a press conference about the sentence at 6.30pm BST today. ®