Chelsea Manning addresses the media outside federal court in Alexandria. Picture: AP Photo/Matthew Barakat
Washington -  Chelsea Manning, who spent more than three years in prison for leaking US military secrets to WikiLeaks, was jailed again Friday for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation targeting the anti-secrecy group.

US District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Manning to be held not as punishment but to force her testimony in the secret case, according to a spokesman for the US attorney in the Alexandria, Virginia federal court.

"Chelsea Manning has been remanded into federal custody for her refusal to provide testimony" to a grand jury, said a statement from the Sparrow Project, a support group for Manning.

They cited Hilton as saying Manning would be held indefinitely "until she purges or the end of the life of the grand jury."

Manning, 31, was ruled in contempt of court after refusing earlier this week to testify for an investigation into actions by WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in 2010, according to her own description, inadvertent court revelations and media reports.

Manning, a transgender woman then known as Bradley Manning, was a military intelligence analyst at the time who delivered more than 700,000 classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into WikiLeaks's hands.

She became a hero to anti-war and anti-secrecy activists and her actions helped make WikiLeaks a force in the global anti-secrecy movement.

In 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Then-president Barack Obama later commuted her sentence, leading to her release in May 2017.

Constitutional rights

Anticipating the contempt charge, Manning said Thursday she had asserted her constitutional rights to refuse to answer questions the day before even as she was offered immunity for her testimony.

She objected to the secret nature of grand juries, which can interview witnesses without their attorneys present.

"All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010 -- answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013," she said.

"In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available," she said.

"My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal."

In court, Manning's lawyer requested home confinement after the judge found her in contempt, the US attorney's spokesman said.

But prosecutors assured Manning that the Alexandria Detention Center where she will be held is experienced in holding transgender inmates and fully capable of addressing any special personal and medical needs she may have.

Manning spent more than three years in prison in 2013-2017, during which she underwent gender transition therapy, spent time in solitary confinement and attempted suicide twice.

After leaving prison, she ran for the Democratic Party's nomination to the US Senate in Maryland in 2018. She failed to unseat the incumbent Democratic senator, Ben Cardin.

WikiLeaks targeted

The US government has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks for years and has stepped up its efforts against the Britain-based group after it served as an outlet for internal Democratic communications that Washington alleges were stolen by hackers from Russia's GRU intelligence agency during the 2016 US election.

Fearing arrest and extradition to the United States, Assange has been sheltering in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012.

He says WikiLeaks's publishing of US secrets is no different than what the mass media does and he should enjoy the same protections as journalists.

Reacting to Manning being sent to jail Friday, WikiLeaks said in a tweet: "Whistleblowers are now being forced to testify against journalists and sent to jail when they don't cooperate. A new angle in the attack on media freedom."

AFP