After more than six hundred and thirty days in solitary pretrial confinement under what many (including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International) say are conditions that constitute torture, accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning has finally been arraigned in a military courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Manning is the 24-year-old former intelligence analyst currently being held in connection with the leaks of scores of diplomatic cables as well as the highly controversial “Collateral Murder” video- footage in which several Iraqi citizens and two Reuters journalists were killed. The jailed soldier faced a military judge, Col. Denise Lind, for the first time today, flanked by two military lawyers and one civilian lawyer. During the hearing, Manning was formally charged for the first time with violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy- and while the latter is a capital offense, the army has indicated that the death penalty will not be sought in the case.
On behalf of Manning, his lawyer deferred both a plea as well as whether the case would be presided on by a single military judge, a panel of officers or a panel of officers and enlisted soldiers. The hearing remained in order for the most part, but at the end, a single protester stood up and shouted out:
“Judge, isn’t a soldier required to report a war crime?”
The judge will set a trial date for Manning, but defense lawyers for the soldier asserted that any time past their request for a June trial would be in violation of Manning’s due process rights, and that by that time, he will have been in pre-trial confinement for more than 800 days. If convicted, he faces life in prison.