Chelsea Manning's lawyers renew call to release her from jail

Ed Pilkington in New York
Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Lawyers acting for Chelsea Manning, the former US army intelligence analyst who leaked hundreds of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, have renewed efforts to secure her release after almost a year of incarceration.

The former soldier’s attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, has lodged a motion with a federal court in the eastern district of Virginia calling for her to be set free more than 11 months after she was detained.

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Manning is being held at the Alexandria detention center after she refused to testify before a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

In December the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, denounced Manning’s ongoing incarceration as itself a form of torture. In addition to being jailed the former soldier is also being heavily penalized financially.

For every day she refuses to testify, she is being fined $1,000. The total has already reached about $230,000.

In the motion for release, Meltzer-Cohen decries Manning’s prolonged incarceration as a form of unlawful “punitive sanction” on the grounds that it is serving no purpose because the inmate will never be coerced into testifying.

As the motion puts it: “Over the last decade Chelsea Manning has shown unwavering resolve in the face of censure, punishment, and even threats of violence. As Ms Manning’s resolve not to testify has been unwavering, and as her moral conviction has become only more developed since her confinement, her incarceration is not serving its only permissible purpose.”

Manning, who spent seven years in military prison for her massive intelligence dump to WikiLeaks in 2010, refused to testify to the grand jury on a point of principle.

In a statement she explained her position was based on “my long standing belief that grand juries, as they function in the contemporary era, are often used by federal prosecutors to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists through secrecy, coercion, and jailing without trial”.

She added: “No matter how much you punish me, I will remain confident in my decision.”

Manning initially refused to testify before a grand jury in the eastern district of Virginia in March 2019. She was called to ask questions about WikiLeaks and Assange who had been the subject of a secret US government investigation for years.

Assange is now being held in Belmarsh prison in London. He faces extradition proceedings to the US after a grand jury returned 18 charges against him relating to receiving secret diplomatic and military documents.