Bradley Manning, the US soldier convicted of passing classified information to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in the biggest such leak in US history, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Military judge Denise Lind handed Manning a 35-year prison sentence along with a dishonorable discharge.
In July, Manning was found guilty of 20 criminal counts including espionage and theft, but not of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge.
Prosecutors had asked for at least a 60-year sentence, which they said would be a deterrent to other soldiers tempted to follow Manning's example. His defense lawyers pleaded for a prison term of no more than 25 years to allow him to rebuild his life.
The 25-year-old Manning was convicted of leaking more than 700,000 battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan along with State Department cables in 2010. He had access to the information because of his position as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Among the material that shocked the international public was a gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Baghdad. Two Reuters news staff were killed in the attack, and WikiLeaks dubbed the footage "Collateral Murder."
Whistleblower or traitor?
Manning has apologized for his actions, saying his aim had been to create debate on the effects of US military and diplomatic action.
"I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people," he said last week.
His defense team has said Manning had been under great mental pressure as a transgender soldier at a time when openly gay people were not allowed to serve in the military.
Prosecutors said the leaks endangered the lives of US intelligence personnel and caused several ambassadors to be recalled, reassigned or expelled.
The activist groups Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network have announced an online petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Manning.
He has also been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize and a number of other awards.
The transparency group WikiLeaks, which issued the material leaked by Manning, has hailed his sentencing as a "strategic victory".
The WikiLeaks website said on Twitter that Manning would be "eligible for release in less than nine years."
Manning could be eligible for parole after serving one third of the sentence. He will receive credit for the time already spent in detention.
The civil-rights advocacy group American Civil Liberties Union however called the sentence sad not only for Manning, but also "for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."
tj/rc (Reuters, AP)