Trans prisoner Chelsea Manning will walk free in May 2017 thanks to Barack Obama’s decision to commute her sentence
Chelsea Manning, the trans US soldier who leaked thousands of classified US documents via WikiLeaks, has had her prison sentence commuted by outgoing President of the US, Barack Obama.
Chelsea Manning was originally sentenced in 2013 to thirty-five years in military prison for leaking documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.
Having leaked over 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks, The Guardian reports Manning’s actions constituted the largest breach of classified material in US history.
Obama’s Audacious Move
Heralded as an audacious move on Obama’s part, the decision to commute Mannings sentence comes three days before he is due to leave the White House.
Manning will now walk free on May 17 2017, nearly seven years since being arrested at a base outside Baghdad and twenty-eight years before her prison sentence was due to end in 2045.
Manning’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, was astonished at the President’s “incredible” decision.
“Oh my God,” Hollander declared after hearing the news from the White House counsel. “I cannot believe it – in 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It’s incredible.”
Without labelling Manning as a “traitor”, a White House official repeatedly iterated that the president believed the crimes Manning committed were “serious” and “harmful to national security”.
Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.
“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
The soldier had experienced harsh conditions in military prison, including prolonged solitary confinement. Previously known as Bradley Manning, she was also dealing with gender dysphoria at the time of the leaks.
In July 2013, one day after she had been convicted, Private Manning came out as trans. Initially denied access to hormone therapy to assist her transition, Manning then sued the Federal Government to gain access to treatment she described as medically necessary.
After careful consideration, approval for Manning’s access to hormone therapy treatment was granted in February 2015.
Manning’s mental health was an issue during her imprisonment, with the soldier having attempted suicide at least once last year. This attempt was punished with further solitary confinement by the US military.
A “Grave Mistake”
However, Republicans have spoken out against Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence.
Calling it a “grave mistake”, Senator John McCain said that Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence “will encourage further acts of espionage and undermine military discipline.
“It also devalues the courage of real whistleblowers who have used proper channels to hold our government accountable,” McCain said.
A White House official said that more commutations are expected “most likely on Thursday”, making Obama the US president to have commuted the most sentences.
Assange & Snowden
Julian Assange, who is currently claiming asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, thanked “everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible.”
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
In a previous tweet from the WikiLeaks account, Assange pledged that if Manning was granted clemency he would agree to US extradition. Melinda Taylor of Assange’s legal team has indicated that he would be keeping true to his word.
“Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” Taylor said.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden responded to Obama’s decision by tweeting: “In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer! … Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama … To all who campaigned for clemency on Manning’s behalf these last hard years, thank you. You made this happen.”
(Image: Chelsea Manning)