U.S. judge orders WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning released from prison

By Mark Hosenball
Chelsea Manning speaks to reporters outside the U.S. federal courthouse shortly before appearing before a federal judge and being taken into custody for contempt of court in Alexandria, Virginia

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Army soldier and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning was released from prison on Thursday on a judge's order after being held since May for refusing to testify in an ongoing U.S. investigation of WikiLeaks.

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga in Alexandria, Virginia, ordered Manning released because the grand jury hearing the case had concluded.

Alexandria City Sheriff Dana Lawhorne told reporters late on Thursday that Manning had been released from the Alexandria Detention Centre.

Trenga rejected a request from Manning to cancel fines that he had imposed for her refusal to testify and ordered her to pay fines totalling $256,000.

A detention hearing for Manning scheduled for Friday was cancelled.

"Needless to say we are relieved and ask that you respect her privacy while she gets on her feet," Manning's defence team said in an emailed statement.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Manning's defence team said Manning had attempted to commit suicide and had been taken to hospital, where she was recovering.

Spokesman Andy Stepanian said that in spite of her imprisonment and the imposition of financial sanctions, Manning remained "unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse."

Prior to her recent incarceration for refusing to testify, Manning had served seven years in a military prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. military messages and cables to WikiLeaks, before being released on the order of President Barack Obama.

WikiLeaks, an internet-based "dead letter drop" for leakers of classified or sensitive information, was founded by Australian citizen Julian Assange in 2006.

Assange is being held in a London prison as British courts consider a request from U.S. prosecutors for his extradition to the United States. He is wanted on charges of conspiring with Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer system containing classified materials.


(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Sandra Maler, Rosalba O'Brien and Daniel Wallis)