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Prosecutors lash out at accused leaker Bradley Manning in closing arguments

Prosecutors have said in their closing arguments that Bradley Manning knowingly and deliberately aided the enemy. The Army private has said he wanted to expose the truth about the Iraq war and encourage debate.

Major Ashden Fein said in court Thursday that Manning was self-centered and deliberate when he handed thousands of documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. Fein also argued that the disclosures violated agreements he signed while training to become an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Manning knew the material would be seen by al Qaeda and the group's former leader Osama Bin Laden, prosecutors said.

The 25-year-old Army private has admitted to passing to WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, war reports and video of a US helicopter that killed civilians in Baghdad - the largest leak of classified information in the country's history.

He is charged with 21 offenses. The most serious charge against him is aiding the enemy, which comes with a possible life sentence. Manning is also accused of violating the Espionage Act. He is the eighth person for whom the Obama administration has invoked the World War 1-era law, more than all previous US presidents combined.

'Spark a domestic debate'

Manning says he did not believe the information would endanger troops in Afghanistan and Iraq or harm national security. He says he wanted to shed light on the war in Iraq and trigger a debate about US militarism.

In February, Manning read a 35-page statement attempting to explain his reasoning behind leaking the material.

"I believe that if the general public … had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general," he said.

Manning has received widespread backing from civil rights and anti-war groups. Hundreds of supporters arrived outside the courthouse hours before it opened, which has been a regular occurrence throughout the trial.

A full-page ad endorsed by hundreds of military veterans, lawyers, journalists, artists and ordinary citizens that ran in Thursday's New York Times called for his release. "In a time when we needed the truth, a young US Army private became our champion for openness and responsibility," it said.

Arrogant and disloyal

Prosecutors have attempted to paint Manning as arrogant and disloyal.

"The only human Private First Class Bradley Manning actually cared about was himself," Fein said, adding that he obtained as much secret information as possible to please WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

"He ultimately knew what he provided to WikiLeaks would make its way to the enemy because he knew the enemy used WikiLeaks," Fein said.

Manning's defense, however, has argued that there was no evidence proving he knew al Qaeda specifically looked at WikiLeaks.

A military judge, rather than a jury, is hearing Manning's case at his request. The judge, Army Colonel Denise Lind, refused a request earlier on Thursday by the defense to find Manning not guilty on five of the counts related to stealing information from government databases. She also denied the defense's request to declare a mistrial.

dr/tm (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)