Feb. 23, 2012
By Karen McVeigh
Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of being the source of the biggest leak of US state secrets in history, was on Thursday formally charged with aiding the enemy, during the first day of his court martial. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole.
Manning, 24, deferred his plea to the 22 charges against him, and deferred a decision over whether he wanted a military judge or a jury to hear his case. A plea can be deferred right up until the beginning of his military trial, which is unlikely to take place before August.
The charges against the former army intelligence analyst include: aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defence information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers.
The documents he is alleged to have dumped on Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website set up by Julian Assange, included Afghan and Iraqi war logs, more than 250,000 diplomatic cables from around the world, and a classified military video of a US helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq that killed 11 people, including two Reuters employees.
Wearing his green army dress uniform and heavy, dark-rimmed glasses, Manning sat though most of the 45-minute hearing at the Fort Meade military base in Maryland with his hands clasped. He was flanked by three lawyers, two military – Major Matthew Kemkes and Captain Paul Bouchard – and one civilian, David Coombs, his defence lawyer.
Manning spoke in a clear voice, to answer “Yes, your honour” when asked if he understood proceedings.
Coombs brought up his client’s due process rights and told the military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, that he would object to any delay in the trial past June.
Coombs argued that the government had said it would be ready by April, but was now saying “it won’t be until 3 August.”
Coombs said his client, who has been in custody since his arrest on 25 May 2010, had been in solitary confinement for “635 days”. He said: “If the government had its way, it would be over 800 days before the trial actually begins.”
Manning was held at Quantico marine base in Virginia and then at Fort Leavenworth. He is currently being held locally.
Coombs said that, while the government had cited the complexity of the case and the difficulty in co-ordinating agencies, “the defence would argue that due process rights of my client” had not been satisfied.
Under the US constitution, a court martial must be brought within 120 days of charges being preferred.
Manning’s 120 days, known as his “speedy trial clock”, began in May 2010, when he was arrested in Iraq, according to the military.
The military insisted that the extra time taken to come to trial owed to requests by Manning’s own defence team, and the period in which classified documents were being handled.
A military legal expert said that the delay of a plea and forum decision was usually a strategic one, while lawyers wait to see how the motions they have filed are dealt with.
Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/23/bradley-manning-defer-plea-charges?newsfeed=true