HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — An Army private charged in the biggest security breach in U.S. history is trying to avoid trial by claiming he has already been punished enough by being locked up alone in a small cell and having to sleep naked for several nights.
A United Nations investigator called the conditions cruel, inhuman and degrading, but stopped short of calling it torture.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is expected to testify about his treatment during a pretrial hearing Tuesday at Fort Meade. The young intelligence analyst has not spoken publicly about his nearly nine months at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., but he has complained in writing about being confined alone in a 6-by-8-foot cell for at least 23 hours a day. For several days in January 2011, all his clothes were taken from him each night until he was issued a suicide-prevention smock.
The hearing is scheduled to run through Sunday.
Manning is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks while he was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.
The 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., allegedly told a confidant-turned-informant in an online chat in 2010 that he leaked the information, saying: "I want people to see the truth."
The Defense Department has said Manning's treatment at Quantico was proper, given his classification as a maximum-security detainee who posed a risk of injury to himself or others. He was kept at the Marine Corps brig from July 2010 to April 2011, eight months before it was shuttered. He was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he was re-evaluated and given a medium-security classification. Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal said Fort Leavenworth provided an environment "more conducive for a longer detention."
Publicity about Manning's treatment helped bring worldwide attention to his case. In March, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez presented a report to the UN's Human Rights Council, criticizing the U.S. government for refusing his repeated requests for a private visit with Manning.
Although they never spoke, "I am persuaded that Pfc. Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, Mendez wrote in a Nov. 15 email to The Associated Press.