The US military will kick off initial court martial proceedings against Pfc. Bradley Manning on December 16.
The proceedings are slated to be held at Fort Meade in Maryland and should last five days. Known as Article 32, the hearing allows both the defense and prosecution to call and cross-examine witnesses.
Manning stands accused of leaking gigabytes of classified data that eventually ended up on WikiLeaks.
He has thus far been charged with multiple counts of obtaining and distributing state secrets to unauthorized parties, which carries a possible sentence of up to 52 years.
The soldier has also been charged with “aiding the enemy,” an allegation that could theoretically result in the death penalty.
However, military prosecutors have hinted they will be asking for a lengthy prison term rather than demanding an execution.
Manning supporter Jeff Paterson told The Guardian he welcomed the news that the military had finally initiated official proceedings against Manning, as the soldier had been trapped in a form of legal limbo without access to an appeal.
“We will be protesting against the charges leveled at Bradley Manning,” said Patterson. “If he is proven to have been the WikiLeaks source, then to us Bradley is a hero: he’s the most important whistleblower in decades.”
Meanwhile, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said the charges against Manning were a clear indictment of the government’s “obsession” with secrecy.
“Manning is accused of revealing illegal activities by our government and its corporate partners that must be brought to the attention of the American people,” he added.