News / USA

Manning Supporters Disappointed By Lengthy Sentence

David Coombs, defense attorney for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, shakes hands with supporters at a news conference in Hanover, Md.,after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks,  Aug. 21, 2013.
David Coombs, defense attorney for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, shakes hands with supporters at a news conference in Hanover, Md.,after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, Aug. 21, 2013.
Carla Babb
The military and the government have deemed U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning a lawbreaker. But supporters say he is a whistleblower, and they have spoken out after a military judge sentenced him Wednesday to 35 years in prison for giving U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.

Shocking. Unfair. Those are the words supporters used to describe Bradley Manning's 35-year prison sentence for giving U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks - secrets that sparked a dialogue about the activities of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, told reporters outside Fort Meade, near Washington, that the lengthy sentence brought him to tears.

"When I heard the sentence I thought to myself, I've represented hundreds of clients. My clients have ranged the full spectrum of people offenses - from people who've committed murder to people who have molested children - and those types of clients received less time that PFC Manning," said Coombs.

The military judge ordered Manning to be dishonorably discharged for his part in the biggest breach of classified documents in American history. The government has called his release of information "destructive" to U.S. interests.

But Manning's lawyer likened the army private's actions to anyone who legitimately exposed wartime truths. He called his case a watershed moment in press freedom that threatens the flow of information to the public.

"The loser is anybody who hopes that we will have whistleblowers in the future willing to come forward, because, as I said before, this does send a message, and its a chilling one, and it's endorsed at the very highest levels," he said.

About 20 supporters gathered outside a busy highway at the entrance of the fort ahead of Manning's sentencing.

Key Dates in WikiLeaks

  • 2006: Set up by a group of people, including Australian Julian Assange.
  • 2008: Publishes the contents of Sarah Palin's hacked e-mail account.
  • 2009: Posts thousands of text messages from U.S. emergency workers and military personnel from September 11, 2001.
  • 2010: Releases hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables.
  • 2011: Assange appeals extradition from Britain to Sweden on sex crimes charges.
  • 2012: British court upholds extradition of Assange, who takes refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London.  Ecuador grants him asylum in August.
  • 2013: U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years after being found not guilty of aiding the enemy but guilty of several other charges for leaking U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.
Farah Muhsin defiantly held up a sign that read "Thank you, Bradley Manning," even as some drivers in the military town honked and shouted obscenities out of their windows.

"Bradley Manning did the right thing in my opinion. He saw war crimes and he refused to be quiet about it," said Muhsin.

Not all in the military community disapprove of Manning's actions. Take Ken Howland, for instance. The former military medic in the Vietnam War protested at Fort Meade in support of Manning for hours. He told VOA he, too, would have leaked information if he thought it exposed war crimes.

"Soldiers' duty, honor country, and you might add the truth. That's rather important and that's something worth fighting for, but people should know what's going on and he made an effort to do that," said Howland.

Manning's lawyer says the next step will be to appeal to the military's convening authority to try to reduce his sentence. He also is filing a request to have the president pardon Manning.

"The time for our president to focus on protecting whistleblowers instead of punishing them is now. The time for our president to pardon is now," said Coombs.

Manning writes in a letter read by his lawyer that if the president does not pardon him, he will serve his time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. He could be eligible for parole in about seven years.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid