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Manning gets 35 years for leaks

US soldier Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the largest such leak in American history.

The military judge did not offer any explanation for the sentence. Manning stood at attention and appeared not to react. The closely watched case has seen the 25-year-old called both a whistleblower and a traitor, and it opened a fierce debate on national security and freedom of expression. Manning's prominent supporters have included Daniel Ellsberg, whose sensational leak of the Pentagon papers in the early 1970s exposed US government lies about the Vietnam War.

Manning had faced up to 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had wanted at least a 60-year sentence, saying it would dissuade other soldiers from following in his footsteps.

The defence suggested no more than 25 years so that Manning could rebuild his life. With good behaviour and credit for the more than three years he has been held, Manning could be out in about six-and-a-half years, according to his defence lawyer David Coombs. Manning's rank was reduced, he was dishonourably discharged and he forfeited his pay.

Mr Coombs told a press conference at a nearby hotel that early next week he will file, through the army, a request that the president pardon the soldier "or at the very least commute" the sentence to time already served. "The time to end Brad's suffering is now," Mr Coombs said. "The time for our president to focus on protecting whistleblowers instead of punishing them is now."

The White House said that if Manning wants to seek a presidential pardon, he must apply for clemency and his request "will be considered in that process like any other application". Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network have announced an online petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Manning.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was a process for pardons. "I'm not going to get ahead of that process," Mr Earnest said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called the sentence a "significant strategic victory" considering that Manning could be free within a decade. But he said "the only just outcome" is Manning's unconditional release.

Guards hurried Manning out of the courtroom, and some supporters shouted: "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley" and "You're our hero." Prosecutors did not immediately comment. Mr Coombs said he was in tears after the sentence was handed down but that Manning said: "I know you did your best. It's going to be OK."

In an interview after Manning's sentencing, Mr Ellsberg called him "one more casualty of a horrible, wrongful war that he tried to shorten. I think his example will always be an inspiration of civil and moral courage to truth tellers in the future," Mr Ellsberg said.


From Belfast Telegraph