US soldier Bradley Manning’s trial began on Monday, three years after he was arrested for leaking thousands of confidential military and diplomatic documents that are believed to have made their way to whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
Manning has pleaded guilty to leaking these documents, which could get him 20 years in jail, but prosecutors are charging him with helping the enemy, a charge that entails the life term.
Many of the 700,000 documents he leaked were about India, its politicians and the US perception of Indian policies — most of them more embarrassing than damaging.
The leaks embarrassed and annoyed US allies and partners. But authorities refused to publicly confirm or deny the content of any specific leaked document.
Manning told military judge Col. Denise Lind in February he leaked the documents to expose US military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His supporters believe he is a whistleblower and many showed up outside the venue of his trial at a military facility in Maryland state with placards in his support.
“On behalf of both myself and Pfc. (private first class) Manning, I would like to thank everyone for their continued support over the last three years,” said defense attorney David Coombs in a statement posted on his website on Sunday.
Manning was arrested on May 29, 2010, at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq. He was eventually transferred to a US Marine Corps facility in Virginia.
He was held there for nine months in solitary confinement. He was stripped naked every night ostensibly to prevent him from killing himself. The judge called the conditions “excessive”.