THE soldier suspected of giving secret US documents to WikiLeaks is an “unparalleled hero”, according to the website’s founder, Julian Assange.

Supporters of Bradley Manning, 23, claim that the army private is being held “in a hole” at a prison at Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia, a claim the Pentagon has denied.

“For him to now be in prison for 10 months in solitary confinement, without trial, is an abuse,” Assange told told Britain’s ITV News.

David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, admitted that his client was “not technically held in solitary confinement,” but claimed that the soldier was being held in “unduly harsh” conditions.

“He is, whether the charges are true or not, America’s foremost political prisoner,” Assange added. “If these allegations are true, he’s an unparalleled hero.

“Look at what’s happening in the Middle East as a result of some of the material we’ve been publishing.”

David House, a friend who regularly visits Manning in prison, told the program that he believed the US was trying to force the former US intelligence analyst into bringing down Assange.

Manning is allowed out of his cell for only one hour a day for exercise outside or at an indoor gym, he said.

“In terms of Bradley Manning’s case, it’s very clear the US government is trying to crack him open with solitary confinement by causing emotional devastation,” House told ITV.

“They’re trying to get him to issue a confession, or false confession, so they can link him to Julian Assange,” he added.

US military authorities brought additional charges against Manning yesterday, accusing him of illegally downloading vast numbers of secret government files and “aiding the enemy.”

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell denied Manning was being mistreated, saying today: “There’s 30 people on a U-shaped corridor, so he’s not in a hole. He’s not away from others. He’s allowed to have conversations with others on that corridor.”

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