Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Manning calls for dismissal of charges against him - The Hindu

Bradley Manning, the United States Army Intelligence officer charged with leaking confidential data to online whistleblower Wikileaks, called for all charges against him to be dismissed this week, as his court martial trial in Fort Meade, Maryland, resumed.

Mr. Manning, who has alleged that he was held under harsh conditions of confinement since his arrest in May 2010, was slapped with 22 charges in March 2011, including “aiding the enemy,” punishable by death.

At the time prosecutors in the case had argued that Mr. Manning’s actions in this regard were prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and were of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

His attorney, David Coombs, however suggested this week via court filings that the government prosecutors had mishandled the case, leading to a slew of delayed proceedings and refusals to hand over vital documentation relating to the discovery process in the case.

According to Mr. Coombs’ filing the Army Court of Criminal Appeals recently said, “Ignorance or misunderstanding of basic, longstanding ... fundamental, constitutionally-based discovery and disclosure rules by counsel undermines the adversarial process and is inexcusable in the military justice system.”

Going by legal precedents, “In this case, the Government has wholly misunderstood those longstanding, fundamental and constitutionally-based rules, resulting in irreparable prejudice to PFC Manning,” Mr. Coombs added.

In a sharply-worded attack on the U.S. prosecutors’ failure to answer his questions relating to the discovery process and disclosure of evidence Mr. Coombs said, “The Government’s... lack of an answer to [these questions] speaks volumes and can be construed as nothing short of an admission that the government has full knowledge that it committed very serious discovery violations.”

Mr. Manning’s team had challenged the very basis of the ongoing trial earlier as well. On the first day of the pre-trial hearing Mr. Coombs asked Investigating Officer Colonel Paul Almanza to recuse himself on the grounds that the latter was a Department of Justice prosecutor in the case against Wikileaks for publishing a vast trove of U.S. State Department cables.

Before his move to a Kansas prison prior to the trial, Mr. Manning was held in a military brig at Quantico, Virginia, allegedly in solitary confinement and subject to harsh conditions including being forced to strip naked every night and subjected to “unlawful pre-trial punishment.”

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