Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

WikiLeaks probe: supporters say Chelsea Manning in 'solitary confinement'

Rights group says confinement having a toll on her mental health

Chelsea Manning speaks during the Nantucket Project's annual gathering in Nantucket in 2017. AP
Chelsea Manning speaks during the Nantucket Project's annual gathering in Nantucket in 2017. AP

Chelsea Manning, the anti-secrecy campaigner who was jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks, has been held in solitary confinement for over two weeks, supporters said on Saturday.

Since being sent to a detention centre in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this month, "Chelsea has been placed in administrative segregation ... a term designed to sound less cruel than 'solitary confinement,'" the Chelsea Resists group said.

"However, Chelsea has been kept in her cell for 22 hours a day.

"Chelsea can't be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, or visit the law library, and has no access to books or reading material. She has not been outside for 16 days," they added.

"Keeping her under these conditions for over 15 days amounts to torture, possibly in an attempt to coerce her into compliance with the Grand Jury."

Ms Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 classified US documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, was ruled in contempt of court on March 8 after rejecting a court demand that she testify in the WikiLeaks investigation.

The transgender woman, 31, cited "ethical" objections to the grand jury system.

"I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech," she said at the time.

The Chelsea Resists group said confinement was having a toll on her mental health, evoking her experience when in 2013, as then-Army Private Bradley Manning, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

At that time she spent time in solitary and attempted suicide twice, before her sentence was commuted in 2017 by president Barack Obama.

She has argued that since the grand jury investigation is officially secret, it is not clear what they want to learn from her about WikiLeaks' activities in 2010 that she hasn't recounted in her earlier trial.

In a previously secret court filing unsealed this week, Ms Manning's lawyers said she "reasonably believes that the current administration is unhappy with her release [in 2016], and seeks to punish her further by using any means at their disposal to incarcerate her".

Updated: March 24, 2019 09:03 AM

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