WASHINGTON, November 27 - RAPSI. The US Army private and intelligence analyst charged with sending thousands of classified security documents to the website WikiLeaks is expected to speak publicly about the case for the first time at a pre-trial hearing that begins Tuesday at the Fort Meade Army base in the US state of Maryland.
"Until now we've only heard from Bradley through his family and lawyers, so it's going to be a real insight into his personality to hear him speak for himself for the first time," said Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning support network, which organizes protests, rallies and raises funds for Manning’s defense, according to The Guardian.
Manning faces 22 charges related to the biggest security breach in US history, leaking hundreds of thousands of classified war logs about US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes secret information submitted by anonymous news sources and whistleblowers.
He could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious counts.
Manning, 24, was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, and was held at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia, near Washington, where his attorneys said he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, including humiliating nightly strip searches and withholding of possessions.
"For nine months, he was kept in complete isolation from other prisoners," Paterson said to The Associated Press. "He had really no human interaction at all except for guards that would yell at him every five minutes saying, 'Are you OK?' Basically, it was a way to use the pretense of mental health concerns to literally drive him crazy."
The military has said his treatment at Quantico was appropriate as a maximum security prisoner who was considered a risk to himself and others.
But it has generated tremendous outrage by supporters including Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, Amnesty International and the UN special rapporteur on torture who said the treatment was cruel, inhumane and degrading.
Manning was eventually transferred to another prison where he was reclassified as a medium-security prisoner.
Manning’s attorneys are trying to make the case that his treatment was harsh and illegal, and – in the event of any conviction – would warrant a reduction in sentence.
They have submitted a list of witnesses for the pre-trial hearing that includes military psychiatrists, Quantico commanders and Manning himself, who is expected to make a direct address to the court.
The hearing is scheduled to last until Sunday. Manning’s court martial is set to begin in February.