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5 Jun, 2013 21:47

Fellow soldiers testify on Manning's beliefs at trial

Fellow soldiers testify on Manning's beliefs at trial

On the third day of Bradley Manning’s trial, his former colleagues recalled the political beliefs he expressed during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. The whistleblower had been demoted for a fistfight after a heated argument two days before his arrest.

Day three of the court proceedings kicked off at Ft. Meade, Maryland Wednesday morning, but concluded earlier than expected after the prosecution breezed through a number of witnesses on the docket. The court adjourned just after 3 p.m. following the conclusion of testimonies from a handful of Army officers who served close to Manning during his deployment in Iraq.

Col. Denise Lind, the military judge overseeing the court-martial, said the court could recess until Monday when the prosecution will again ask its witnesses to testify as to Private first class Manning, a 25-year-old Army intelligence analyst accused of sharing a trove of sensitive military files with the website WikiLeaks. Manning could be sentenced to spend life in prison if convicted of the most serious of charges, aiding the enemy.

The quick pace of this week’s proceedings contrasted sharply with how the trial has progressed in the months — and years — leading up to this week. The court-martial began Monday at Ft. Meade outside of Baltimore, but not before Manning spent more than 1,100 days in pretrial confinement. The trial is scheduled to continue for another 11 weeks.

Army Specialist Jihrleah Showman was called to testify Wednesday morning and answered questions about Pfc. Manning’s behavior and attitude in Iraq. Manning was deployed to Forward Opoerating Base Hammer outside of Baghdad in October 2009, and prosecutors say he started harvesting the files later published by WikiLeaks just weeks later.

Bradley Manning Support Network member Nathan Fuller was one of the roughly 20 journalists in attendance for day three of the court-martial, and wrote on Twitter that Showman testified that the accused WikiLeaks source frequently talked about politics with his Army colleagues, wanted to debate fellow soldiers about US policy and came off on the “extreme Democractic side.” Manning punched Showman in the face during a May 2010 outburst and was demoted from specialist to private first class as a result. He was arrested for his role in the intelligence leaking two days after that demotion, but Fuller said the altercation was never discussed during Wednesday’s hearing.

Other witnesses called Wednesday included Kyle Balonek and Hondo Hack, two superiors who testified as to Pfc. Manning’s roel as an intelligence analyst at FOB Hammer.

Manning was one of if not the most organized intelligence analysts he's ever seen,” Fuller recalled of Hack’s testimony.

The media has been interested in Manning and his motivation for leaking the classified files, but they are focused on the wrong issue, Wide Awake News founder Charlie McGrath explained.

“I don’t care if he was manipulated by Assange, or if it were his own feelings, or if he was just frustrated because he saw those things occurring. The information is indisputable,” McGrath told RT. “The reasons that he claims – that this was a conscience decision – I think history will see him as a hero. But the reasons that the people of the West have been led into the war have proven to be over and over falsehoods and lies.”

“Crimes have been committed, yet we are going to focus on a twenty-something private first class whistleblower? We are looking in the wrong place,” he said.

Court is expected to reconvene 9:30 a.m. Monday, June 10, and continue through August. In an editorial last week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wrote, "The government has prepared for a good show."

"The alleged act in respect of which Bradley Manning is charged is an act of great conscience - the single most important disclosure of subjugated history, ever," Assange wrote.

Manning could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy, a charge the government says he is guilty of because al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden requested and received military files that the soldier supplied to Assange. Manning admitted to uploading material to WikiLeaks earlier this year.