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Manning seeks pardon

September 4, 2013

The US soldier convicted of providing classified documents to WikiLeaks has requested a presidential pardon. Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, is serving a 35-year-sentence for charges including espionage and theft.

US soldier Chelsea Manning is escorted into court to receive her sentence at Fort Meade in Maryland August 21 (photo via Reuters)
Image: Reuters

Private Manning's lawyer directed the appeal to US President Barack Obama via the US Justice Department and Army Secretary John M. McHugh, a statement on the whistleblower's website revealed Wednesday. The letter, reportedly sent on Tuesday, calls for a full pardon or commutation of sentence.

"I urge you to consider this matter closely and to take a positive step towards protecting whistleblowers who release information to the media for the public good by either reducing Private Manning's sentence to time served, or by granting him a full pardon," lawyer David Coombs wrote.

Manning, 25, signed the letter with her legal name Bradley rather than Chelsea, by which she has now requested to be known. Until she legally changes her name, anything to do with the pardon or court-martial would have to be in Bradley's name, Coombs said.

Among documents submitted alongside the petition was a letter of support from Amnesty International, which said the material released by Manning exposed potential human rights violations.

Manning was handed a 35-year jail term on August 21 for releasing 700,000 classified files and videos from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as State Department cables to WikiLeaks. It was the largest-volume leak of classified material in US history. She was convicted of 20 criminal counts including espionage and theft, but not of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge.

A day later, the soldier issued a statement saying she would like to live as a woman named Chelsea and receive hormone therapy for gender dysphoria - the sense that she is physically the wrong gender.

White House to consider request

Manning has apologized for her actions, saying her intention 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," she said in the days leading up to her sentencing.

Her defense team 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.

Last month, the White House said a request from Manning for a presidential pardon would be considered like any other.

According to the US Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, Obama has received 1,496 petitions for pardons and 8,313 for commutation of sentence since coming into office. He has granted 39 pardons and one commutation.

ccp/ph (AP, Reuters)