THE US army soldier at the centre of the WikiLeaks affair has charged that he is being improperly subjected to unusually harsh conditions at a military prison.
In an 11-page memorandum, Private Bradley Manning said officials at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, where he is being held had abused their discretion in classifying him as at risk of injuring himself and requiring “maximum custody”.
Manning said the prison’s own records show he has been a model prisoner and that prison psychiatrists had repeatedly recommended he be removed from “prevention of injury” status.
“Under my current restrictions, in addition to being stripped at night, I am essentially held in solitary confinement,” Manning wrote.
“For 23 hours a day, I sit alone in my cell. The guards checked on me every five minutes during the day by asking me if I am okay. I am required to respond in an affirmative manner,” he said.
“At night, if the guards cannot see me clearly, because I have a blanket over my head or I am curled up toward the wall, they will will wake me in order to ensure that I am okay.”
Manning said he was barred from keeping any personal items in his cell, can have only one book or magazine at a time, which he must give it back at the end of the day, and is not allowed to exercise in his cell.
“If I attempt to do push-ups, sit-ups or any other form of exercise, I am forced to stop by the guards. Finally, I receive only one hour of exercise outside of my cell daily,” he said.
“My exercise is usually limited to me walking figure eights in an empty room.”
Manning, who is suspected of passing hundreds of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables and military reports to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website, was hit on March 2 with 22 charges, including the capital offence of “aiding the enemy.”
A former low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq, he is also accused of knowingly giving “intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means”.
The US military had previously announced 12 charges against Manning in July, accusing him of violating federal criminal and military law.
But the Pentagon has yet to explicitly link him to WikiLeaks, although the charge sheets accuse him of illegally downloading a trove of government documents and causing them to be “wantonly” published on the internet.
Manning knew that “intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy,” according to court documents.