The US soldier accused of providing secret documents to the website Wikileaks has testified, giving the details of his pre-trial detention. They are the first public comments since his arrest two years ago.
US Army Private Bradley Manning said Thursday (local time) during a pre-trial military hearing in Ft. Meade, Maryland that he was confined to a "cage" in the days following his arrest, and that his isolation led to a swift decline in his awareness and health.
"My nights were my days and my days were my nights," said Manning while on the witness stand. "It all blended together after a couple of days."
Defense lawyer David Coombs has demanded the court throw out the case due to Manning's mistreatment during his pre-trial detention.
The 24-year-old was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 on charges of leaking thousands of classified documents to the website Wikileaks. Their subsequent publication resulted in embarrassment to the US government and its allies.
The hearing is to determine whether Manning's case should go to a full military court martial. He potentially faces life imprisonment if convicted.
Manning was moved to Kuwait shortly after his arrest, where he lost phone privileges, had his cell frequently searched and his possession scattered.
"I totally started to fall apart," Manning said, explaining that he soon began having suicidal thoughts.
He said his mood toughened after being transferred to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and he never returned to the levels of despair he felt in Kuwait, but he was kept in isolation and placed under suicide watch - despite objections from psychiatrists.
Confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, he said he was forced to strip naked, had his glasses taken away and had to request toilet paper.
Two military psychiatrists earlier told the court that the conditions imposed upon Manning were unnecessary, unprecedented in their duration and against their medical advice.
In March of this year, UN special rapporteur Juan Mendez said the US government subjected manning to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
The US military defended its treatment of manning, saying they were trying to ensure his safety.
Manning was held at Quantico from July 2010 to April 2011, after which he was transferred to a prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Authorities there concluded he was not a suicide risk and he was granted regular privileges.
He is scheduled take the witness stand again Friday.
dr/mz (Reuters, AFP, AP)