Activists protest Chelsea Manning's prison treatment after suicide attempt

Transgender soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning. AP photo.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Advocates for a transgender soldier imprisoned for sending classified information to an anti-secrecy website presented more than 115,000 petition signatures to the Army's chief Wednesday protesting new charges Chelsea Manning faces related to her recent suicide attempt.

Activist groups including Demand Progress presented the petitions to Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning's office on Wednesday.

Manning, serving a 35-year sentence, tried to kill herself July 5 by unspecified means in a military lockup at Kansas' Fort Leavenworth. The American Civil Liberties Union said Manning, 28, now faces administrative charges related to that bid to take her own life, with possible punishment including indefinite solitary confinement, loss of phone and law library privileges, and a delay to her parole eligibility.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the activists said the administrative charges against Manning are unjust, particularly considering what they called her "systematic mistreatment" in prison. The charges include having prohibited property, resisting prison staff and "conduct that threatens."

"The reality is that she's not in a great place and getting the treatment she needs," said Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney for Manning. Strangio said Manning "continually expressed relief that she's still alive," but pressed that "the idea the government is punishing her for surviving is egregious."

Army spokesman, Wayne Hall, didn't immediately respond to an email Wednesday seeking comment.

Manning, arrested as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 in military court of six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offenses for leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, plus some battlefield video to WikiLeaks. Manning, who was an intelligence analyst in Iraq at the time, later filed a transgender prisoner rights lawsuit.

Manning has appealed the criminal case, arguing that her sentence was "grossly unfair" and that her actions were those of a naive, troubled soldier who just wanted to reveal the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appeal contends Manning's disclosures harmed no one, but prosecutors have said the leaked material damaged U.S. security and identified informants who helped U.S. forces.

Manning's fans include former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, indicted for leaking classified government information — long known as the "Pentagon Papers" — about the Vietnam War in 1971 to The New York Times and other newspapers. A federal judge threw out the charges against him in 1974 because of government misconduct.

"Chelsea Manning is a hero of mine," Ellsberg said on Wednesday's call, insisting "no harm has resulted from her disclosures."


JIM SUHR, Associated Press.

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Copyright 2016 The Gayly - 8/10/2016 @ 1:56 p.m. CDT