The US soldier convicted of handing a trove of secret government documents to anti-secrecy website Wikileaks has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Pte First Class Bradley Manning, 25, was convicted in July of 20 charges against him, including espionage.

Last week, he apologised for hurting the US and for “the unexpected results” of his actions.

Prosecutors had asked for a 60-year sentence in order to send a message to future potential leakers.

Pte Manning will receive credit for time he has already served in jail, plus 112 days’ credit in recompense for the harsh conditions of his confinement immediately after his arrest.

Military prisoners can earn time off their sentences for good behaviour but must serve at least one-third of any prison sentence before they can become eligible for parole.

Public debate hopes


At the scene

Tom Geoghegan BBC News, Fort Meade


After 10 weeks of legal argument, the sentencing was over in minutes.

Judge Col Denise Lind sat in front of the Stars and Stripes and the US Army flag as she sentenced Pte Manning to 35 years in prison.

The 25-year-old defendant, in full military uniform, cut a diminutive, bespectacled figure as he sat in court, tapping his feet and rearranging his papers.

But as he stood to hear her words he showed little emotion. And his aunt, Debra van Alstyne, also seemed impassive behind him.

The hush was broken as he was led away. His supporters, dressed in black T-shirts bearing the word “truth”, ignored earlier warnings by court officials and the judge to remain calm.

Shouts of “We’ll be waiting for you, Bradley” and “Thank you, Bradley, we love you” rang out.

In the military courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, on Wednesday, Judge Col Denise Lind declared Pte Manning would be dishonourably discharged from the US Army and forfeit some of his pay.

While stationed in Iraq in 2010, the junior intelligence analyst passed hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, the pro-transparency group headed by Julian Assange.

Pte Manning said in a pre-trial hearing he leaked the secret files in the hopes of sparking a public debate about US foreign policy and the military.

In a statement during the sentencing hearing, Pte Manning told the court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland that “the last three years have been a learning experience for me”.

His defence lawyers are expected to make a statement later on Wednesday.

The verdict and sentence will be reviewed, and possibly reduced, by a military district commander and will be automatically reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network have announced an online petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Pte Manning.

Isolated deployment

As an intelligence analyst in the US Army, he had access to a large amount of very sensitive information, despite his junior rank.

The young soldier grew up in Oklahoma, and in Wales, where his mother is from, and reportedly joined the US Army to help pay for college.

A military psychiatrist has told the court that Pte Manning had struggled with his gender identity and wanted to become a woman at the time of the leak.

Navy Capt David Moulton testified that Pte Manning had felt abandoned by friends and family during his time in Iraq and that his relationship with his boyfriend had hit a rough patch.

According to evidence presented by the defence at his trial, military supervisors ignored erratic behaviour from Pte Manning, which included trying to grab a gun during a counselling session.

His lawyers said such actions had shown that Pte Manning had not been fit for duty overseas. He became increasingly isolated after his deployment to Iraq in 2009, the court heard.

Defence lawyers said Pte Manning was treated unfairly in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia and in a cell at Camp Arifjan, a US Army installation in Kuwait.

Pte Manning told the court he remembered thinking: “I’m going to die, I’m stuck inside this cage.”

He enabled Wikileaks to publish sensitive messages between US diplomats and records of military incidents in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a cockpit video showing a US Apache helicopter killing 12 people in the Iraqi capital in 2007.

The revelations caused significant embarrassment to the US government, and US officials have said the disclosures harmed US relations and the war effort in Afghanistan.

BBC

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