By New Worker correspondent
Demonstrators gathered outside the US embassy in London last Friday for a protest picket in support of Bradley Manning, the Iraqi war veteran accused of leaking secrets to WikiLeaks. The vigil was organised by Veterans for Peace UK and London Catholic Worker to call for all charges to be dropped against the former US intelligence analyst accused of leaking a video of the killing of civilians, including two Reuters journalists, by a US helicopter gunship in Iraq and passing other sensitive material exposing US war-crimes and those of their mercenaries in occupied Iraq to WikiLeaks.
The demonstration was held to coincide with the second day of a pre-trial hearing at a military tribunal held at Fort Meade in Maryland where Manning faces a total of 23 charges in relation to documents he allegedly handled that were later published by WikiLeaks and other major news outlets including the Guardian and the New York Times. One charge carries the death penalty, others could mean life imprisonment.
Manning was kept in solitary in Iraq, Kuwait and Quantico, Virginia following his arrest in Iraq in 2010. After widespread condemnation of Manning’s conditions of confinement, he was moved to more humane conditions at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in April 2011. Manning says he was tortured when he was held the Quantico US Marine Base. And Juan Mendez, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, who has slammed the American authorities for abusing Manning during his pre-trial confinement has repeatedly sought to conduct an unsupervised meeting with Manning in order to investigate these abuses.
“I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico,” Mendez told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week.
“It’s astonishing that US officials are blocking an investigation into the humiliating and degrading treatment of Bradley Manning, while the Kingdom of Bahrain has just invited Mr. Mendez to conduct a fact-finding mission into their recent abuses of political prisoners,” said Jeff Paterson from the Bradley Manning Support Network.