US Army private Bradley Manning will speak publicly for the first time in two years, when he's called as a witness in a pre-trial hearing later today.
Manning, who is accused of "aiding the enemy" by handing over army secrets to Wikileaks, is expected to be called to testify at Fort Meade army base in a hearing that's expected to last until this weekend. If he's found guilty when the full court martial kicks off in February next year, he could in theory receive a death sentence, though military prosecutors have stated that this will not be requested. Thus at worst Manning might be imprisoned for life.
His lawyer, David Coombs, is trying to get the case thrown out or at least have any possible sentence cut because of his treatment when he was being held at the Quantico US Marine base in Virginia, according to the Baltimore Sun. Manning, who's been imprisoned for over 900 days now, was held for nine months in the base before being transferred to the army's Fort Leavenworth correctional facility.
His legal team say that Manning was held in "the equivalent of solitary confinement" in a cell with no window for the first five months of his time at the Marine base and denied exercise. They also claim that he was woken up every day at 5am and forced to stay awake until 10pm, during which he was not allowed to lie on his bed or lean against the cell wall.
When his harsh treatment in the Marines' "brig" became widely known, the UN rapporteur on torture, Amnesty International and law experts all condemned it. A spokesperson at the US State department even resigned after criticising the regime in public.
Manning's supporters also say the length of time it's taking for the court martial to start is against his right to a speedy trial.
If the judge decides that Manning's pre-trial treatment isn't enough to end the court martial, the days that he's already spent imprisoned could be taken off his new term. Coombs is looking for a ten-to-one credit on days, ten days off for every one served, if the charges against Manning stand. ®