FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — As a military prosecutor held up a knotted bedsheet in court, Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged on Friday that he fashioned a noose and contemplated suicide shortly after his arrest on charges of engineering the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history.
The pretrial testimony appeared to support the military's argument that it was trying to protect the former Army intelligence analyst from harming himself by taking away all his clothes, keeping him in strict isolation and shackling him when he was outside his cell.
Manning's lawyers argue that the conditions he experienced for nine months at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., amounted to illegal punishment, lasting well past the time he was having suicidal thoughts, and that the charges against him should be dropped as a result.
On Friday, prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein produced a knotted, peach-colored sheet from an evidence box on the prosecution table and held it up, displaying a loop in the fabric.
"You made a noose out of this?" he asked Manning.
"Yes," the soldier replied.
Manning, 24, said he fashioned the noose while being held in Kuwait soon after he was accused in May 2010 of leaking reams of military and diplomatic documents to the website WikiLeaks. He said his time in Kuwait was the lowest he felt during his entire confinement.
When he was transferred to the brig at Quantico in July 2010, he said, he wrote on his intake form that he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal thoughts. He was classified a suicide risk for eight days, then upgraded to the less-restrictive "prevention of injury" status.
Manning maintains that neither designation was appropriate because he didn't feel like hurting himself after leaving Kuwait.
Quantico commanders kept the restrictions in place despite repeated recommendations by brig psychiatrists that they be eased. Among other things, Manning was given scratchy, suicide-prevention bedding, and sometimes all his possessions, including his underwear and eyeglasses, were removed from his cell.
Manning testified that he stood naked at attention during a morning head count one day after a guard appeared to object to his use of a blanket to cover himself. He said he had been put on "suicide risk" the previous day, and stripped of all his clothes at night, after he told a guard that if he really wanted to kill himself, he could do it with his underwear.
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