With only days to remaining on his second term, President Obama has agreed to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who will now be released from prison on 17 May 2017.
Manning entered military custody in 2010, and was set to serve a 35 year sentence for passing more than 700,000 classified documents and videos to Wikileaks.
“Chelsea deserves her freedom, and the world’s respect, for her courageous, inspiring actions in 2010. Chelsea’s releases through WikiLeaks helped bring an end to the US war on Iraq, galvanised Arab Spring protesters and inspired subsequent truthtellers,” said Sarah Harrison, acting director of the Courage Foundation, a legal defence group that’s backed Manning.
“Chelsea should also be admired for the way she has drawn international attention to battles for transgender rights and against prison abuse, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”
VICTORY: Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence from 35 years to 7. Release date now May 17. Background: https://t.co/HndsbVbRer
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
Manning’s original sentence of 35 years was the longest ever attached to her crime, and her experiences in detention included having to endure torturous solitary confinement, which included being locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period.
Since Manning’s incarceration in 2010, she revealed that she identifies as a woman (Manning had previously been known as Bradley Manning), however her gender dysphoria went unacknowledged, and Manning remained in an all-male facility.
In the past year Manning attempted suicide twice, but rather than provide psychological care, the Army responded to Chelsea’s attempt by punishing her with a week in solitary confinement.
“Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning’s life. Freeing her is clearly and unambiguously the right thing to do, and not just for the obvious humanitarian reasons, though those are absolutely compelling,” said Harrison.
Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama. https://t.co/IeumTasRNN
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 17, 2017
Manning’s release has been celebrated by fellow whisteblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted his thanks to President Obama, and by Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, whose site reposted a statement from the first day of Manning’s trial, which Assange claimed was “show trial” where “the verdict was ordained long ago.”
A week ago, Wikileaks also tweeted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”
However, it is unclear at this point whether Assange will stand by this commitment.