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Lawyer seeks leaks case dismissal

A lawyer for a US Army soldier charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information has asked a military judge to dismiss the charges against his client, arguing that the government bungled the handing over of documents in the case.

Private Bradley Manning was in court in Fort Meade, Maryland, for a military hearing in his case.

Military prosecutors say the 24-year-old downloaded and sent to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents and diplomatic cables. Defence lawyers say Manning was a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material.

Manning's lawyer argues that the government does not understand its obligation to hand over documents. The government says it has complied with the rules.

Manning has been charged with 22 counts including aiding the enemy, which could result in life imprisonment.

He is expected to learn during hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday when his trial will start. He has so far declined to enter a plea. He also put off choosing whether to be tried by a military jury or judge alone.

Military prosecutors and Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, disagreed about the extent of the government's obligation to hand over documents in the case before trial. Mr Coombs argued that the government has to turn over a broad range of documents, including ones that are classified, but he has not received information he requested.

He said he was asking that charges against his client be dismissed because the government has "hopelessly" messed up the document handover in the nearly two years his client has been incarcerated.

Captain Ashden Fein, a military prosecutor, told the judge that the government had tried to produce "as much as possible" and that it had complied with the rules. He said classified documents needed to be treated differently. The government will get a chance to respond to Mr Coombs' motion before the judge rules on it.

Military prosecutors say the documents Manning sent to WikiLeaks included nearly half a million sensitive battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and a video of a deadly 2007 Army helicopter attack that WikiLeaks shared with the world and called "Collateral Murder".

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