Obama grants military prisoner early release

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President Barack Obama dramatically shortened on Tuesday the prison sentence for the woman convicted of one of the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history.

Chelsea Manning, then known as Bradley, leaked classified military documents to whistleblower website WikiLeaks that were made public in 2010.

The ex-Army intelligence analyst brought to light sensitive diplomatic cables, videos of U.S. airstrikes that resulted in civilian casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and intelligence assessments of detainees held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The disclosures squarely focused international attention on WikiLeaks, which was a hitherto little-known website.

Manning attempted suicide twice last year, fueling speculation about her mental health.

She will be released May 17, according to the White House. She was serving a 35-year prison sentence that would not have seen her release until 2045.

Manning had been jailed since 2010. She was convicted by a military court in 2013 of "aiding the enemy" and several violations of the Espionage Act.

Rumors had mounted over the past few weeks that she was on Obama's clemency shortlist as he prepares to leave office at the end of the week.

“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Manning.

“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life," he added in a statement.

Manning is one of 209 prisoners receiving a presidential commutation. Pardons were issued to 64 other individuals, according to the White House.

"These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward," White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a White House blog post.

Among those receiving a pardon is Marine Corps Gen. James Edward Cartwright who was convicted of lying to investigators related to the public disclosure of the U.S. cyber program known as Stuxnet.

Oscar Lopez-Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist will also have his prison term concluded on May 17. The Puerto Rican nationalist was sentenced to 55 years in 1981 for participating in a militant independence movement that saw bombings in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York. He received a separate 15-year sentence for a plot to break him out of jail.

2017.01.18 / 09:48
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