Chelsea Manning has been released from prison. In 2013, this U.S. soldier was tried before a U.S. military court and condemned to 35 years’ imprisonment due to her responsibility for the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of documents that had been either ‘classified’ or otherwise deemed ‘sensitive’ given their relevance to United States military operations. These documents included videos of airstrikes, diplomatic cables, and other military reports that were later published by several media outlets, in particular WikiLeaks.
In May 2016, Toby Cadman authored a report on UK legislation concerning penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of public information that formed part of an amicus curiae brief coordinated by the Open Society Justice Initiative and submitted to the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals in PFC Chelsea Manning’s case. In his report, Toby Cadman concluded that the sentenced imposed upon Chelsea Manning was disproportionate in terms of Comparative Law, and although it was difficult to assess the likely sentence that would have been imposed if the matters had been dealt with by the UK Courts, it is unlikely that it would have been comparable to the 35 years deemed appropriate by the U.S. military Courts. Consequently, Toby Cadman called upon the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals to reduce Mrs. Manning’s sentence accordingly.
In one of his last decisions in office, President Barack Obama commuted her sentence and today, Chelsea Manning has been freed from prison. Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, in welcoming the decision, highlights the need to consolidate efforts to protect whistleblowers that disclose information of critical public interest.
BBC News has reported Chelsea Manning’s release:
US soldier Chelsea Manning has been released from prison after serving seven years for leaking thousands of diplomatic cables and military files to Wikileaks.
A US Army spokesperson confirmed to the BBC that she had left Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas.
Most of what remained of her 35-year sentence was commuted by then-US President Barack Obama in January.
Her lawyer earlier said she was excited but likely “anxious”.
“She’s ready to finally be able to live as the woman that she is,” Nancy Hollander told the BBC. The 29-year-old soldier was born Bradley Manning.
A day after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013, Manning said she had felt female since childhood and wanted to live as a woman called Chelsea.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” she said in a statement last week ahead of her release. “I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world.”
Chelsea Manning was convicted of 20 charges in connection with the leaks, including espionage. She was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.
She defended the leaking by saying she had wanted to spark a public debate in the US about the role of the military and US foreign policy, but later apologised for “hurting the US”, saying she had mistakenly believed she could “change the world for the better”.
In January she tweeted that she wanted to move to Maryland after being released, a state where she previously lived.
On Monday she tweeted: “Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P”.
Chelsea Manning will remain on active army duty while her military court conviction remains under appeal. She will have healthcare benefits but will be unpaid, the army says.
If the appeal is denied, she could be dishonourably discharged from the army, US media say.
Chelsea Manning was deployed to Iraq as an intelligence analyst when she leaked hundreds of thousands of files to Wikileaks.
Included in those files was video footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007, and many sensitive messages between US diplomats.
Barack Obama’s decision to commute her sentence drew criticism from leading Republicans, including Senator John McCain, who called it a “a grave mistake”.
Manning twice attempted suicide last year at Fort Leavenworth, a male military prison.
She also went on a hunger strike last year, which she ended after the military agreed to provide her with gender transition treatment.
This article was originally published on 17th May 2017 at BBC News.
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