A US military judge has found US Army private first-class Bradley Manning not guilty on charges of aiding and abetting the enemy, though he faces sentencing on 20 other convictions today, which could amount to over 100 years in jail.
Manning’s full court martial hearing began in June at the Fort Meade military base in Maryland and was expected to last until the end of August. The 25-year-old faced life imprisonment if convicted of knowingly aiding and abetting the enemy, just one of the 22 charges levelled against him.
In March, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the less serious charges against him, including possessing and wilfully communicating information to an unauthorised person. Working as a junior intelligence analyst for the US Army in Iraq, he leaked videos of an airstrike in Baghdad and one in Afghanistan, thousands of US diplomatic cables and thousands of reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were published by WikiLeaks between April and November 2010.
He was arrested from a military base in Baghdad in May 2010 and has been detained since July 2010 in conditions that have since been deemed inappropriate.
Hero or traitor?
The material leaked by Manning was seen by the US military as a threat to national security. Manning responded to theses claims with a 35-page statement explaining his decision to leak the information in order to highlight the wrongdoing he witnessed being committed in the name of the US Army.
Seen as a heroic whistleblower by some and a traitor by others, Manning has been named among a record 259 nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Petitions and campaigns in support of his acquittal have appeared online.
Not over yet
Yesterday, military judge Col Denise Lind found Manning guilty of six counts of violating the Espionage Act, five counts of theft and two counts of computer fraud as well as other minor charges. Though he has been found not guilty of aiding the enemy, he still faces a sentence of up to 136 years in prison for the other charges.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has hit out against the verdict, which he expects Manning to appeal. While the sentencing hearing starts today, the appeals process could drag the case out for years, but Assange claims that “WikiLeaks will not rest until he is free.”
Leading from the US House of Representatives intelligence committee released a statement after the ruling stating that “justice has been served”.