By Liisa Wale
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
This past Thursday, February 21st marked PFC Bradley Manning’s 1000th Day in prison. Manning has been held since May 2010 and did not see his first pretrial hearing until December 2011. He was arrested on suspicion of having passed on classified documents to Wikileaks. He was then charged with “a number of offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy.”
He will be returning to court in Fort Meade, MD for yet another pretrial on February 26th where Judge Denise Lind will rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss charges for lack of a speedy trial. At Brad’s pretrial back in December of last year it was assumed that he would finally be headed toward the court-martial this month. However in January the Judge decided to push the date of Manning’s court-martial back yet again to June of 2013. The court-martial was supposed to originally happen in September of 2012. David Coombs, Manning’s defense lawyer, said recently in the motion to dismiss charges, “PFC Manning’s statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights have been trampled upon with impunity.” This delay is met with mixed reactions. One could argue that the delay has allowed Coombs an opportunity to bring to light that the Army is not following protocol and also to provide additional information in the case. On the other hand Manning is not getting a speedy trial.
In court, David Coombs has laid out the ways in which the government has made an “absolute mockery” of Manning’s right to a speedy trial by violating the 5th and 6th Constitutional Amendments, Rule for Court Martial 707, and Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 10. Prosecutors were supposed to arraign Manning within 120 days but took well over 600. They’re also supposed to remain actively diligent throughout the proceedings, but Coombs has showed substantial periods of their inactivity and needless delay.
In the upcoming pretrial on February 26th the court will hear Manning’s updated plea offer, in which he’s expected to offer to plead guilty to several lesser-included offenses, which could carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. At the January hearing at Fort Meade he was given an 112 reduction in a potential sentence.
In response, supporters around the world held demonstrations, rallies and marches Saturday, February 23rd. From California, to Florida, to Italy, to Germany, 70 actions took place as supporters of PFC Manning said “1,000 Days Without Trial is Too Long” and “Whistleblowing Is Not A Crime”. As another pretrial begins this week at Fort Mead, MD both The Guardian and BBC continue to provide news coverage. As reported by BBC, Civil Rights lawyer Chase Madar believes Manning has done a “very valuable service” to the United States “because he has brought so much information to light”.
Here in Arizona rallies in support of Manning where held in Tempe and Tucson. The Tempe rally took place at the corner of Mill and University following the Local to Global Forum on Saturday. There was chanting “Free Bradley Manning” and some horn honking by passing traffic. It was a spirited rally and provided an opportunity to educate and provide updates to those that stopped to talk.
The Bradley Manning Support Network continues to fight for the rights of Bradley Manning stating, “Manning’s due process rights have been clearly violated, and the only legal remedy is to dismiss charges. Judge Lind could dismiss charges with prejudice, if she determines the government intentionally delayed Manning’s trial, which would set the young Army private free. She could also dismiss without prejudice, which would allow the government to simply retry the case and restart the speedy trial clock. If she dismisses the motion altogether, she will condone the government’s unconstitutional delays and the deprivation of Manning’s due process rights.”