On Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked Army documents and is serving 35 years. (U.S. Army via AP, File)
One of President Obama’s last acts in office has been to commute much of Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning’s sentence, and she will walk free on May 17. Confirmation came from the White House today, with many praising the decision, one that could have saved Manning’s life.
Having been sentenced to 35 years for leaks to Julian Assange’s organization, Manning spent much of her time in solitary confinement. Supporters feared for her life, as Manning’s gender dysphoria and will to have sex reassignment surgery caused considerable grief as she was forced to serve her time in an all-male prison. She made at least one attempt to take her life, for which she was given a term in solitary.
Manning’s representation, Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the decision “could quite literally save Chelsea’s life.” “We are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many,” Strangio added.
Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, said in a joint statement that Manning disclosed information that “served the public interest and never caused harm.” The 35-year-sentence, the longest ever handed to a whistleblower, “was always excessive,” they added.
Though Obama has received praise for the commutation, rumors of which were circulating last week, it “will not make good the harm done on Obama’s watch, said Sarah Harrison, acting director of the Courage Foundation, which runs the European side of Chelsea Manning’s defense fund.
Manning was first arrested in Baghdad in May 2010 after she (then named Bradley Manning) handed a trove of army material to Wikileaks, including the infamous “collateral murder” video showing a U.S. helicopter shooting at unarmed individuals, including Reuters journalists. She waited three years for a trial. When her incarceration was ordered, it was the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower.
“Chelsea’s releases through WikiLeaks helped bring an end to the US war on Iraq, galvanised Arab Spring protesters and inspired subsequent truthtellers,” Harrison added. “Chelsea should also be admired for the way she has drawn international attention to battles for transgender rights and against prison abuse, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”
Rumors are now abounding that Assange will be extradited from the Ecuadorian Embassy for the U.K., thanks to a tweet that promised he would head to the U.S. if Manning had her sentence cut short.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
Wikileaks had not commented at the time of publication.
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