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WikiLeaks: Bradley Manning was treated improperly in lockup, judge rules

But the military court declined to throw out the case against former Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who faces trial for allegedly facilitating the largest leak of classified documents in US history.

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Manning was held alone in a cell for nearly nine months and kept on a highly restrictive suicide watch for much of that time despite the recommendation of a mental health adviser that the watch be lifted and his conditions of confinement be eased.

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Manning and his lawyers argued that the tough treatment was illegal punishment meted out by military officials who failed to honor the requirement that defendants be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

Detention officials defended the decision to maintain the suicide watch and other tough measures, despite the earlier recommendation that conditions be eased. They said months earlier the same mental health expert had made a similar recommendation that a prisoner’s watch status be downgraded. That prisoner committed suicide in the facility.

News of Manning’s harsh treatment sparked protests at the gates of the Marine base at Quantico. In April 2011, he was moved to a medium-security pretrial detention facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Because of reports of his harsh treatment by the US military, Manning has attracted a significant following of supporters who view him as a crusading whistle-blower. Some expressed disappointment after the judge’s ruling.

“She confirmed that Bradley was mistreated, and vindicated the massive protest that was required to stop the Marines at Quantico from torturing Bradley,” said Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

“Yes, 112 days is not nearly enough to hold the military accountable for their actions,” he added, in a statement. 

Manning’s trial is set to begin in early March in a military courtroom at Fort Meade, Md.

Lind’s ruling came on the first day of a new round of pretrial hearings this week. At issue is whether jurors should be allowed to assess Manning’s possible motives in deciding to leak certain documents.

Defense lawyers say their client was careful to release only documents he believed would not damage US national security or otherwise aid America’s enemies.

The leaked documents included diplomatic cables, battle reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, and intelligence assessments of terrorism suspects being held at Guantánamo. They were subsequently released to the public on the WikiLeaks website.

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