Significant strategic victory in Bradley Manning case. Bradley Manning now elegible for release in less than 9 years, 4.4 in one calculation
A US military judge has sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison. Manning faced up to 90 years behind bars, while prosecutors sought to put the whistleblower away for a minimum of six decades.
Manning will be credited with the 1,294 days he spent in pre-trial confinement plus an additional 112 days. He was also dishonorably discharged, saw his rank reduced to private from private first class and was forced to forfeit all pay and benefits. No additional fine, however, was levied against him. Manning will have to serve a third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Col. Denise Lind, who on Tuesday began her deliberations in the court-martial case, announced the sentence shortly after 10am local time (14:00 GMT). Lind read out the sentence succinctly and provided no other statement as a gaggle of journalist's waited in anticipation. Flanked by his lawyers, Manning, 25, stood at attention and appeared not to react when Lind announced the punishment, AP reports. He further made no statement after his fate was announced.
#Manning sentenced to 35 years. Means he'll likely serve about 8 to 8.5 yrs more in confinement and be out by the time he's 33 or 34.
Immediately after sentencing, Amnesty International called on President Barack Obama to commute Manning's sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release.
"Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for decades, the US government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
The American Civil Liberties Union was also quick to excoriate the decision.
"When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system," said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, decried the sentence as "unprecedented" in its magnitude.
"It's more than 17 times the next longest sentence ever served" for providing secret material to the media, said Goitein. "It is in line with sentences for paid espionage for the enemy."
WikiLeaks, however, argues the sentence can be perceived as a victory for Manning, as it leaves open the possibility that he will be released within a decade's time or less.
Manning's sentence will automatically be sent to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals as it exceeds a period of one year.
Before that process can get underway, however, the entire court-martial proceedings must be turned into an official transcript, which the defense, prosecution, and judge must sign off on.
That process will most likely be lengthy in duration.
Manning will have the option of petitioning General Jeffrey Buchanan, the Convening Authority overseeing the trial, for clemency. General Buchanan also has the option of reducing the sentence on any particular count or overturning it altogether. Conversely, Buchanan cannot overturn a not guilty verdict or tack on time to the sentence.