Because he suffered "illegal pretrial punishment" after his arrest, if convicted, accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning will get 112 days cut from any prison sentence he receives, a military judge ruled Tuesday.
Manning, a 25-year-old U.S. Army private, faces 22 charges including aiding the enemy, which carries a penalty of life in prison.
In a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, Army Colonel Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the court-martial, recognized that Manning's nine-month detention in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia was "more rigorous than necessary," according to the Associated Press.
She added that the conditions — which consisted of confinement in a windowless cell, often without clothing, for 23 hours a day — "became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests." But this did not mean that Manning was “held in solitary confinement," the judge said, because solitary confinement "means alone without human contact.”
According to the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington, reporting from Fort Meade, Lind's made her ruling under Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice which protects prisoners awaiting trial from punishment on grounds that they are innocent until proven guilty. Dismissal of all charges is listed as a possible remedy for an Article 13 violation.
But Lind refused to dismiss all charges as the defense requested, saying it should be used only under the most egregious circumstances where the US government has engaged in "outrageous conduct."
Blogger Kevin Gosztola, also reporting from the hearing, said Lind, who read her ruling out loud over the course of 90 minutes, dismissed the allegations of improper command influence and intent to punish that led to Manning being kept in unlawful pretrial conditions at Quantico.
On the contrary, Brig officials said he had to sleep naked and was awakened repeatedly during the night -- for his own protection.
“There was no intent to punish the accused by anyone in the Marine Corps brig staff or chain of command,” she said, according to the New York Times. “The intent was to make sure the accused was safe, did not hurt himself and was available for the trial.”
Battle over Manning’s motives
As the Guardian notes, the battle for the defense now turns to the charges that Manning is facing. The most potentially devastating is the accusation that by passing information to Wikileaks, he effectively made it available to al-Qaida and its affiliate terrorist organizations.
David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, told the judge Manning intentionally selected the information he gave to Wikileaks to make sure it was harmless to the United States and would not aid any foreign enemy, the Guardian reported.
Military prosecutor, Captain Angel Overgaard, told the court that in the US government's opinion Manning’s motives are irrelevant to determining whether he committed the offenses for which he is charged. "If somebody stole a loaf of bread to feed her family, she still stole the loaf, even though her motives were good," Overgaard said.
The Crescent, Okla., native was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and is accused of leaking classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade intelligence operation in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010, according to AP reports.
Manning’s court-martial is currently scheduled to begin March 6.