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Chelsea Manning must remain jailed after contempt, court rules

Chelsea Manning arriving for the 22nd Annual OUT100 Celebration Gala at Altman Building in New York on November 9, 2017. (Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS)
April 22, 2019

Whistle-blower and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning must remain in jail for contempt, a court ruled Monday.

“The court finds no error in the district court’s rulings and affirms its finding of civil contempt,” a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit order said, as reported by The Washington Post.

Along with rejecting Manning’s appeal, the three-judge panel denied Manning’s request for bail.

Manning was jailed on March 8 after refusing to testify before a grand jury in a case involving WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, and has been held in the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia.

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Manning and her lawyers insist that the government spied on her ahead of her scheduled grand jury testimony, and questions based on information garnered from that surveillance can be legally refused.

Manning cited her opposition to grand juries as her refusal to testify, in addition to claiming she already shared all relevant knowledge during her court-martial. She also claimed that answering the questions violated her Constitutional rights.

“This is the strongest appeal of a grand jury contempt I have ever seen, and so release ought to be granted. The lower court acted without considering clear legal mandates and this error, including the denial of release, must be corrected in the appellate court,” Manning’s attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, told Sparrow Media.

WikiLeaks’ Assange was arrested earlier this month by British officials in London on a U.S. indictment that accuses Assange of conspiring with Manning.

Manning reportedly communicated with Assange – and even utilized his password-cracking expertise – to breach Pentagon computers, bypassing user profiles and collecting more than 700,000 sensitive U.S. military documents eventually released by WikiLeaks.

A statement from Manning’s lawyers after Assange’s arrest insisted that Manning’s testimony was unnecessary when the U.S. had already obtained enough evidence for indictment against Assange a year prior.

“Compelling Chelsea to testify would have been duplicative of evidence already in the possession of the grand jury, and was not needed in order for U.S. Attorneys to obtain an indictment of Mr. Assange,” the statement said.

“Since her testimony can no longer contribute to a grand jury investigation, Chelsea’s ongoing detention can no longer be seriously alleged to constitute an attempt to coerce her testimony. As continued detention would be purely punitive, we demand Chelsea be released,” the statement added.

Manning’s legal team had previously requested home confinement instead of jail time, citing medical needs such as hormone therapy and daily treatment related to her surgery. However, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton refused the request and said Manning’s medical care would be carried out by the U.S. Marshals.

Manning was convicted and served out seven years of a 35-year sentence, which was commuted by former President Barack Obama in January 2017, just days before he left office. Manning was released from prison in May 2017.