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WikiLeaks: Lawyers in emails clash

Lawyers for a young soldier accused of leaking a trove of secret information to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said US military prosecutors had withheld hundreds of emails related to his pre-trial detention at a Marine Corps brig.

David Coombs, a lawyer for Private Bradley Manning, argued at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, that prosecutors had yet to turn over about 700 emails.

But he said the emails he was already aware of painted a portrait of a military more concerned with combating negative publicity than with Manning's welfare and revealed that top-level officials, including a three-star general, were briefed about the conditions of his confinement.

Prosecutors denied that the military was driven by public relations concerns and said the general had been justifiably anxious about Manning, especially because he was considered a suicide risk at the time. He has since been transferred.

Manning, 24, is accused of providing to WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghanistan war logs while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He faces a possible life sentence.

Military prosecutors and defence lawyers have been thrashing out procedural and evidentiary disputes during a continuing pre-trial hearing ahead of a trial scheduled for early next year. At issue on Tuesday were nearly 1,400 emails pertaining to Manning's maximum-security detention at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. While there, he was confined to a single-bed cell for 23-hours a day. His clothing was taken from him for several nights until he was issued a suicide-prevention smock.

The conditions mobilised and infuriated Manning supporters, who alleged torture and said he was illegally punished. He has since been relocated to medium-security confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Mr Coombs said Manning was confined in such a way to prevent anything bad from happening to him, which the military knew would generate a crush of negative publicity. "The main thing they were concerned about was being portrayed in a negative light," he said.

Ashden Fein, a military prosecutor, said the emails did not support Mr Coombs' theory or allegations. He said there was nothing unusual about a general being given regular briefings about an individual soldier's confinement, especially one who was considered a suicide risk.

The hearing continues.

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