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Australia moves to ban Chelsea Manning visit

By Sommer Brokaw
The Australian government gave Chelsea Manning a notice of intent to refuse her visa Wednesday because she did not pass a character test over her criminal record. Photo by <a class="tpstyle" href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode">Tim Travers Hawkins</a>/Wikimedia Commons
The Australian government gave Chelsea Manning a notice of intent to refuse her visa Wednesday because she did not pass a character test over her criminal record. Photo by Tim Travers Hawkins/Wikimedia Commons

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The Australian government has moved to ban Chelsea Manning, a former American soldier and whistle-blower, from entering the country over her criminal record.

Manning, a former U.S. Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning, who came out as transgender and changed her first name to Chelsea while in prison, was scheduled to arrive Thursday and to give a speech at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night as part of a speaking tour. American journalists Ronan Farrow, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Maureen Dowd have also been scheduled to speak.

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Manning was scheduled to give a series of talks around Australia about "the violations she exposed as a whistle-blower and her human rights activism since being released from prison," according to a statement released Thursday from Claire Mallinson, national director of Amnesty International Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs wrote in a notice sent to Manning Wednesday that she failed a character test required for entry to Australia due to her "substantial criminal record."

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"Amnesty International is very concerned that the Australian government is seeking to silence American activist Chelsea Manning by intending to deny her a visa into Australia," Mallinson's statement said. "By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued in this country. It is not too late for the government to change its mind."

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Manning was convicted in 2013 for leaking classified information. President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence in January 2017 and she was released early.

Australian human rights groups have derided the move to ban Manning from entering Australia as a "political stunt" to appease the Trump administration, the Guardian reported.

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Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale, Labor equality spokeswoman Louise Pratt and numerous human rights groups rallied Thursday asking the government to allow Manning entry.

"We are very disappointed to learn that the Department of Home Affairs has taken this approach and will be vigorously advocating for her ability to enter Australia," Think! Inc., which organized the Sunday event, said in a statement Thursday.

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