Manning freed but ordered to appear before new grand jury

Manning spent 62 days in jail after refusing to answer questions to a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

Manning served seven years in prison for leaking one of the largest troves of classified documents in the US history [File: Ford Fischer/News2Share/Reuters]
Manning served seven years in prison for leaking one of the largest troves of classified documents in the US history [File: Ford Fischer/News2Share/Reuters]

Chelsea Manning, a former US military intelligence analyst who was being detained for refusing to testify before a grand jury, has been released and immediately summoned to appear before a new grand jury, according to her lawyers.

Manning was released on Thursday after the term expired for the previous grand jury in Virginia that was seeking her testimony in connection with what is believed to be the government’s long-running investigation into anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

She was simultaneously subpoenaed to appear before a different grand jury on May 16, meaning she could be found in contempt again for refusing to testify and returned to jail, her lawyers said in a statement.

Manning had appeared before the grand jury in early March but declined to answer questions.

She was jailed for 62 days for contempt of court. A US appeals court denied her request to be released on bail and upheld the lower court’s decision to hold her in civil contempt for refusing to testify.

“Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge (Anthony) Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” the statement said.

It is unclear exactly why federal prosecutors want Manning to testify, although her representatives say the questions she was asked concern the release of information she disclosed to the public in 2010 through WikiLeaks.

Manning was convicted by a court-martial in 2013 of espionage and other offences for leaking more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

She served nearly seven years in prison before former US President Barack Obama, in his last days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning’s 35-year sentence. She was released in May 2017.

Earlier this week, Manning’s lawyers filed court papers arguing that she should not be jailed for civil contempt because she has proven that she will stick to her principles and will not testify, no matter how long she is jailed.

Federal law only allows a recalcitrant witness to be jailed on civil contempt if there is a chance that the incarceration will coerce the witness into testifying. If a judge were to determine that incarcerating Manning were punitive rather than coercive, Manning would not be jailed.

“At this point, given the sacrifices she has already made, her strong principles, her strong and growing support community, and the disgrace attendant to her capitulation, it is inconceivable that Chelsea Manning will ever change her mind about her refusal to cooperate with the grand jury,” her lawyers wrote.

Manning filed an eight-page statement with the court on Monday, outlining her resolve. She wrote that “cooperation with this grand jury is simply not an option. Doing so would mean throwing away all of my principles, accomplishments, sacrifices, and erase decades of my reputation – an obvious impossibility,” she wrote.

She also said she was suffering disproportionately in jail because of physical problems related to inadequate follow-up care to gender-reassignment surgery.

After nearly seven years of giving Assange refuge in its embassy in London, Ecuador on April 11 ended its protection and he was arrested by British police.

The United States is seeking his extradition to face charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Assange plans to fight the US extradition request.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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