Fort Meade - Evidence showing the mistreatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning at a military brig should “shock the conscience” of the court, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The United States Army soldier accused of handing over a trove of secret documents to the WikiLeaks website was subjected to harsh, “unlawful” conditions for nine months at the brig even though psychiatrists concluded he was not at risk of committing suicide, said David Coombs, his defence counsel.
Manning was placed under “maximum custody” at the US Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia, as “the result of a direct order” from a commanding officer, witnessed by two colonels, Coombs alleged at a pre-trial hearing.
Other cases have revealed excesses but “this one should shock the conscience of this court”, the lawyer added.
After his solitary confinement from July 2010 to April 2011, which sparked outrage by rights activists, Manning was transferred to a prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he was placed under less restrictive conditions after he was evaluated by mental health professionals.
Judge Denise Lind agreed to a defence request to have the commander of the Fort Leavenworth brig at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, testify next month about how Manning was evaluated and why he was not placed in solitary confinement.
Manning's lawyer said he planned to file a 100-page motion arguing his client suffered illegal detention conditions while awaiting his court-martial, and said his improved treatment at Fort Leavenworth made clear that he had endured an injustice at the Quantico brig.
“Either the water at Fort Leavenworth has amazing mental health healing properties or he was subject to unlawful pre-trial confinement (at Quantico),” Coombs said.
But the judge rejected a request from Manning to have United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez appear as a witness. Prosecutors had argued that Mendez's testimony was not relevant as he never visited Manning during his detention at Quantico.
Mendez requested a visit with Manning, but US military authorities would not allow him to conduct an “unmonitored” meeting with the accused, Coombs said.
The judge also ruled on Thursday that prosecutors have to meet a defence request to produce in court a tear-proof smock, blanket and mattress similar to those issued to Manning during his detention at Quantico.
The blanket was essentially “a large piece of sand paper”, Coombs said.
The trial for Manning is tentatively due to begin in September but may be pushed back as late as February next year, the judge said.
Manning, 24, was a low-ranking intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq when he was arrested in May 2010 and accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
If convicted of aiding the enemy, he faces a possible life sentence. - Sapa-AFP