Manning attorney points up inconsistencies

Dec. 11, 2012 at 8:48 AM
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FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The attorney for the U.S. Army private accused of leaking information to WikiLeaks questioned how far up the chain of command orders concerning his client went.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, 24, spent nearly nine months alone in a windowless, 8-by-6-foot cell at the Quantico Marine brig under conditions a U.N. investigator called "cruel, degrading and inhuman."

Officials said they took the measures to protect Manning but his lawyers said the brig staff defied a clinical diagnosis and treated him punitively, Courthouse News Service reported Monday.

Manning faces 22 charges that include aiding the enemy, violating the Espionage Act, exceeding access to his computer, stealing documents, and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces for providing sensitive information to the whistle-blowing website. The matter is being heard before a military court in Fort Meade, Md.

If Col. Denise Lind finds Manning was subjected to "unlawful pretrial punishment," the military judge can reduce or reject the charges against Manning.

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, questioned two brig officers at Quantico, now closed because of international outcry over treatment of detainees.

One, Chief Warrant Officer-4 James Averhart testified he put Manning on suicide risk three times while he was in charge of the brig. Suicide watch forced Manning to strip naked, put on a rough smock, and sleep on a special mattress and a blanket, CNS said.

Averhart and his successor, Denise Barnes, both testified they knew higher ranking officials were watching the matter.

Barnes testified she saw Col. Robert Oltman, Quantico's security battalion commander, and Capt. William Hocter, the brig psychologist, argue during a January 2011 meeting.

As stated in a defense motion and during court proceedings, Oltman told Hocter that Manning "won't be able to hurt himself, and he won't be able to get away, and our way of making sure of this is that he will remain" on a prevention-of-injury status indefinitely.

Hocter expressed concern because such a decision wouldn't be "based on anything from behavioral health."

Coombs also highlighted inconsistencies in Barnes' testimony, including a statement concerning Manning's standing nude at reveille. Under prosecution questioning, she said he voluntarily stood naked, but under cross she said detainees who chose to stand nude would have been ordered to dress.

Manning supporters have praised him for exposing military and diplomatic malfeasance. Readers of the British newspaper The Guardian voted him "Person of the Year" Monday.

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