Two European Parliament members from Wales have added their names to an open letter protesting about the treatment of Bradley Manning, the US Army analyst alleged to have leaked sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning – whose mother lives in Wales – has been in custody since May 2010. During confinement in Quantico in Virginia, he is said to have been held in solitary for 23 hours a day and “often made to sleep without clothing or bedding,” according to the BBC.
The two MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) are Jill Evans of Plaid Cymru (Wales’s national party) and Derek Vaughan of Labour. They have added their names to an open letter to President Barack Obama, complaining of Manning’s treatment.
Evans says it’s a human-rights issue. “I think anyone who read about the conditions under which he has been held would be very disturbed,” she’s quoted as saying. “It is totally out of proportion to anything that he has been accused of.”
Rapporteur on torture
“The letter calls on the US president to allow Pte Manning to meet the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez,” says the BBC website.
“The signatories also state they are concerned that the soldier has been charged with the offence of ‘aiding the enemy’, which could carry the death penalty in the US.”
Manning has been charged with making sensitive information downloaded from government computers available to the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, as Digital Journalreported on November 22, Manning will, on December 16, be given his first chance to speak before a military court at Fort Meade, Maryland.
The hearing – which will be open to the public at times – could last five days.
The open letter says:
We call upon the United States government to allow Juan Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, to conduct a private meeting with Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower. Mr Méndez has made repeated requests to American officials to meet privately with Mr Manning in response to evidence that he was subjected to abusive confinement conditions while he was detained at a facility in Quantico, Virginia.
Mr Manning was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day during the eight months he was incarcerated at that location. It appears that he was at times forced to sleep and stand at attention without any clothing. His legal counsel has documented additional incidents which indicate the possibility of other rights violations.
It also says that “hundreds of US legal scholars” have signed a letter to the US government, “arguing that the conditions of confinement endured by Mr Manning at Quantico may have amounted to torture.”
Manning has a Welsh connection. His British mother, Susan Manning, who lives in Haverfordwest in West Wales, expressed her concern in April this year about the conditions she alleged her son was then living in.
The Haverfordwest-based Western Telegraph quoted Susan Manning as saying: “I was very distressed by seeing Bradley. Being in prison, and being held in the conditions which he is, is having a damaging effect on him physically and mentally.
“I am worried that his condition is getting worse. I would like someone to visit him who can check on his conditions.”
Her intervention came not long before Manning was transferred from a brig at Quantico to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he was said to have more recreation time and the ability to mix with other pre-trial detainees.