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April 23, 2019

US judge refuses to free WikiLeaks leaker Manning


April 23, 2019

WASHINGTON: A US judge kept Chelsea Manning locked up on Monday for refusing to testify in the secret grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks, despite its founder Julian Assange having already been charged in the case.

A panel of judges rejected Manning’s appeal against her March 8 jailing for contempt after she refused to give testimony in the case, on the grounds that she believes the grand jury system is unfair and used to persecute activists.

Manning "failed to properly address the issue of grand jury abuse" and other issues she raised in her appeal, the judges said in a statement. The court ruling means Manning will remain locked up in a detention centre until she agrees to testify or the grand jury investigation ends.

The ruling came 11 days after the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia unsealed charges against Assange related to his publishing in 2010 hundreds of thousands of secret US war and diplomacy documents and communications that were stolen by Manning.

At the time, she was a US Army intelligence official going by the name Bradley Manning, before she underwent gender reassignment treatment and took the name Chelsea. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but her sentence was commuted in 2017 by president Barack Obama.

In the past two years, the US government has sought to build a case against Assange over his publication of a series of leaks of highly sensitive US intelligence, military and diplomatic materials.

The unsealing of the indictment against him -- originally set more than one year ago -- had suggested that the secret grand jury had completed its work, but Manning’s continued incarceration indicates that it is still working.The US government alleges that Assange tried to help Manning gain access to a government computer as part of a 2010 leak by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of US military reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American diplomatic communications. It is not clear if the alleged collaboration between Manning and Assange led to a successful intrusion into any US government computer.

Assange plans to fight the US extradition request. Such cases, when challenged, can take years before they are resolved. Manning was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of espionage and other offenses for furnishing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Former US president Barack Obama, in his final days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning’s 35-year sentence.

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