A group of 40 campaigners has gathered outside the US embassy in London to protest against the incarceration of a US Army private accused of leaking information to whistle blowing website WikiLeaks.

Bradley Manning, 24, is charged with passing classified data and delivering national defence information to an unauthorised source.

It is claimed he sent hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and war logs to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks website while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Protesters gathered on Saturday in front of the heavily guarded Grosvenor Square building for more than an hour, bearing Free Bradley Manning placards.

Ben Griffin, 34, a former SAS soldier and founding member of Veterans For Peace UK, addressed the crowd after observing a 30-minute silent vigil.

He said: “The most significant piece of resistance to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came when a young soldier released information that the US and UK governments would rather we did not know about.

“Among the files released through WikiLeaks were the Afghan War Diaries, which showed the day-to-day ritual killing and torture that has been going on in Afghanistan for years.

“Then the Iraq War Logs were released. As a result of those logs we found out about thousands of people killed in Iraq by US and UK troops that we did not know about.

“Through the diplomatic cable release we now know about the sneaky little deals with other governments so we do not know the reality of the wars.

“As a result of these leaks a young soldier has spent years in prison and still has not come to trial….

“That guy is still being held and for the last six months we’ve been coming here when Bradley Manning has been taken to a pre-trial hearing, when the military decide what is going to be allowed to come out in his case and what is not, and standing in solidarity.”

Among the dozens of protesters were several wearing the V For Vendetta mask that has become associated with the hacking group Anonymous.

Others carried banners saying “Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime” and “Free Assange, Free Manning, End the war”.

After more than an hour outside the US embassy, the group moved to Ecuador’s London embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up for more than two months.