‘Punitive’ trial awaits Manning: ‘US government now wants to put him away for life’

As the US government pushes for a heavy sentence to be handed to Bradley Manning “for revealing US hypocrisy”, it doesn’t stand accountable for the crimes it committed, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights told RT.

On Monday the whistleblower will stand trial for the largest intelligence leak in United States history in Fort Meade, Maryland. The trial is expected to continue for up to three months.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, accused of transmitting digital materials connected with US military operations abroad.  Once detained he pleaded guilty to the charge of handing over  information to WikiLeaks. He has been held in custody since.

The investigation into his case has been ongoing for three years as he may be facing life in prison if the prosecutors prove his links with Al Qaeda on which they insist and get Manning convicted of “aiding the enemy.”

The Private’s detention conditions have sparked international concern. December last year judge Army Col. Denise Lind accepted terms that would allow Manning to plead guilty to lesser than the presented 22 charges. Following Manning’s guilt plea to 10 charges, the judge ruled that any sentence should be reduced by 112 days because of the detention conditions, which were named by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture "cruel, inhuman and degrading."

Demonstrations have been taking place across the US and all over the world in support of Bradley Manning, the US army private who revealed sensitive information to the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks.

RT: Manning finally faces trial on Monday - three years after he was arrested in 2010. Why has it taken so long?

Michael Ratner: There was a huge number of documents involved in this case, half a million that they had to go through. Two of the big reasons are that some of the pretrial was devoted to how he was kept in custody , the torture, the cruel treatment and actually he got some reduction in the ultimate sentence because of that. Another part of the pretrial was when he pleaded guilty to charges that could get him 20 years. It was one of the most moving days I spent in court. He gave his political reasons, why he wanted the American people to know about the crimes of their own government in Iraq and Iran and all around the world. What’s going on now I think sadly is the punitive phase of the trial. He has pleaded guilty for 20 years, the US government now wants to put him away for life.

RT: Some praise Manning as a courageous whistleblower - others condemn him as a traitor who risked lives. How would you describe him?

MR: One of the questions you get all the time is while he was a soldier, he broke his duty, all of this stuff. The problem for me is that no one is looking at the accountability of my own government for the crimes it committed. They are only focusing on ‘yes Bradley’ – ‘no, Bradley’.

I support Bradley Manning, I support what he did, I support the revelation of criminality of my own government and accountability for my own government.

Why don’t they look at the torture centers they’ve set up in Iraq? Why don’t they look at the illegal drones they are using all over the world? That’s the accountability we’ve got to have. We shouldn’t be taking one soldier and trying to put him in jail forever, but revealing the secrets, criminality and hypocrisy of the US.

RT: During one of the hearings Manning described some harsh details about his confinement conditions - being stripped naked at night for example. How can the US account for such treatment?

MR: They can’t account for that kind of treatment. I was there that day, I cried during that trial. Bradley Manning was very dignified, smart, dealt with it. They can’t. It was torture by all means you want to say. They did this to him in the face of the public. It was only the protest of the public really that eventually brought that to an end. It’s outrageous.