As a US military judge decides the fate of former army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, activists in dozens of cities across the world are calling for the Convening Authority on the case to free the whistleblower.
Protests are taking place in dozens of cities throughout the US and the world, in what has been dubbed the “International Day of Action.”
London protesters held banners proclaiming “Free Bradley Manning” in Trafalgar Square, although the number of demonstrators was not large. Protests took place in a number of other international cities, including Brussels and Perth, Australia.
The demonstrations are designed to coincide with the anticipated sentencing phase of Bradley Manning’s trial. The whistleblower could find himself faced with life in prison.
Protests in support of Bradley Manning were also organized in at least 40 German cities, including Hamburg, Munich, and Berlin, with the largest rally taking place in Frankfurt.
Initial protests began on Friday, as the prosecution and defense wrapped up their arguments. Demonstrators blocked the gates of Ft. McNair in Washington D.C., where the office of Jeffrey S. Buchanan – the Convening Authority overseeing the trial – is located. They held banners which read,“Buchanan, the choice is yours” and “truth not treason.”
“It’s time we reclaim the word ‘patriot.’ The kind of patriot we need today is not someone who defends all of our country’s history and actions, it’s someone willing to stand up for our country’s future, taking risks to ensure it’s a just one,” campaign organizer Emma Cape from the Bradley Manning Support Network said in a speech at Ft. McNair.
Veterans who served in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as activists from Yemen and Iraq, also spoke at the event. A representative from the US Peace Memorial Foundation, which awarded Manning their 2013 Peace Prize, was also present.
Twenty-five-year-old Manning faces a potential life sentence for leaking hundreds of military and diplomatic cables and documents to WikiLeaks. He has pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information, which carries a maximum 20 year sentence. He faces life in prison for charges of aiding the enemy, espionage, computer fraud, and federal theft.
The prosecution has called Manning a “glory-seeking traitor,” while his defense team says he is a naïve whistleblower who was horrified by atrocities of the Iraq war. The lawyers added that Manning had no idea that the material he leaked would end up in the hands of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Defense attorney David Coombs said that although Manning was negligent in releasing classified material, he lacked the “evil intent” which must be proven in order to be convicted of aiding the enemy. Coombs also said that giving the material to Wikileaks was no different than giving it to a newspaper.
After his arrest in May 2010, Manning was detained alone in a cell for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing. His jailers at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia admit he was a suicide risk.
The military judge who is deciding Manning’s fate, Col. Denise Lind, has ruled that he has been illegally punished and should get up to 112 days off any prison sentence he receives. Lind has said she will give one day’s notice before reconvening the court in August to announce the verdict.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in a telephone press conference on Friday that if Manning is convicted, it will be “the end of national security journalism in the United States.”