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WikiLeaks' Assange says leaker Manning is 'political prisoner' in show trial

Gary Cameron / Reuters

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning arrives for the second day of his court-martial at Fort Meade, Md.

Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, says that Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of aiding the enemy by leaking military secrets, is “the most prominent political prisoner in modern U.S. history” whose alleged crime is "telling the truth." 

In a lengthy statement posted late Monday on the WikiLeaks site and emailed to reporters covering Manning’s court-martial, Assange said that Manning is being subjected to a show trial.

“Those invested in what is called the ‘U.S. military justice system’ feel obliged to defend what is going on, but the rest of us are free to describe this travesty for what it is,” he wrote. “No serious commentator has any confidence in a benign outcome.”

In an opening statement Monday at the court-martial, at Fort Meade, Md., a military prosecutor said that Manning put fellow soldiers at risk when he sent huge classified databases to WikiLeaks.

His lawyer said that Manning was “hoping to make the world a better place,” was troubled by the killing of Iraqi civilians and carefully selected which documents to leak so that they could not be used to harm the United States.

Manning said at a pretrial hearing in February that he sent the documents because he wanted the world to know the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a diplomatic standoff, Assange has holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for a year. Britain wants to extradite him to Sweden, where authorities want to question him about sexual assault and rape allegations. He denies those allegations.

In his statement, Assange cited “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of Manning at a Marine base in Virginia where he was held for nine months before he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The military judge overseeing the court-martial has said any sentence will be reduced four months to compensate for the harsh treatment.

Assange called the court-martial a “fully choreographed extravaganza” and said that rulings from the judge have compromised Manning’s ability to mount a complete defense.

The real defendant, Assange wrote, is the United States: “A runaway military, whose misdeeds have been laid bare, and a secretive government at war with the public. They sit in the docks. We are called to serve as jurists. We must not turn away.”

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