WikiLeaks trial could last up to 6 weeks

Posted by Trent Nouveau

A US military judge has finally set aside six weeks for the long-awaited court martial of Bradley Manning. 

As Ed Pilkington of the UK-based Guardian notes, Manning has been in custody for almost three years without trial - which is far longer than the 120-day period normally allowed under military rules.

The former army intelligence analyst currently faces a total of 22 charges - including aiding the enemy - after thousands of classified documents allegedly downloaded by the soldier ended up on WikiLeaks.

The trial, which will be presided over by military judge Denise Lind, is slated to be held between February 4 and March 15. In the meantime, Manning defense attorney David Coombs is pressing the Pentagon to release a batch of emails between  military personnel at Quantico marine base in Virginia, where Manning was held towards the start of his detention.

Coombs believes the 1,384 emails may help the defense team challenge the PFC’s ongoing incarceration due to the cruel and unusual treatment he suffered during the 10 months of detention at Quantico. Indeed, Manning was subjected to solitary confinement, stripped naked, held in a bare cell and made to wear a rough smock at night. Military chiefs in the brig allegedly said they "we will do whatever we want to do."

Thus far, the prosecution has released only 684 of the emails. However, Lind recently agreed to review the remaining 700 emails before deciding whether to disclose them to Coombs.

If found guilty at the conclusion of his trial, Bradley Manning is likely to spend the rest of his life in a military brig without the possibility of parole. Although the Pentagon appears set on making an example out of Manning, a number of organizations, activists and artists have leapt to the defense of the former army analyst, claiming the Pfc. shouldn't be punished for his role in leaking secret documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In addition, many have questioned whether the Pentagon is even capable of offering Manning a fair trial.

"I don't think anyone disagrees that the government has enough evidence to start a court martial proceeding. The question is whether they should be proceeding," Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, said back in December 2011.

"It's outrageous for two reasons. How can there be a fair court martial when the commander in chief, president Obama himself, pronounced that he is guilty [of breaking the law]? Secondly, he has been subjected to 10 and a half months of clearly abusive treatment that in my opinion was immoral and illegal."