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US Releases Chelsea Manning


FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick.
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick.

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army soldier who gave more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was freed from prison early Wednesday after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence.

An army statement said Manning was released at 2am local time from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in the state of Kansas.

"Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past," said the 29-year-old in a statement released by her legal team. "I'm figuring things out right now - which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me."

An online fundraising effort set up to help Manning pay for living expenses after her release had brought in nearly $150,000 in donations as of Wednesday. Manning's lawyers say she plans to go to Maryland.

The leaks included battlefield reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables, and rocketed WikiLeaks to international prominence. Critics said the disclosures publicized some of the nation's most sensitive secrets and put people mentioned in the documents, such as those who aided U.S. troops overseas, in danger.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence in January, setting Wednesday as her release date.

Manning, who was known as Bradley at the time of the leaks, came out as transgender after being sentenced to prison.

Manning said she acted "out of concern for my country," innocent civilians who died in the wars and in support of "transparency and public accountability."

Her conviction in a military court on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, theft and computer fraud, remains in place and Manning is appealing the verdict.

She objected to the length of the sentence, which was longer than any previously given for the disclosure of such information.

Manning's lawyers have said she was subjected to violence while in prison, and that the military mistreated her by forcing her to serve her time in an all-male facility and restricting access to physical and mental health care.

"Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts," Manning said in a statement last week. "I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters."

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