MONTHS of “inhumane” solitary confinement are taking a toll on the US Army private suspected of passing secret government files to WikiLeaks, one of his supporters says after paying him a visit.
“It has become obvious to me that (Bradley) Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating,” David House wrote on the blog Firedoglake, recounting a visit to the military brig where the accused soldier is being held.
“It’s become increasingly clear that the severe, inhumane conditions of his detention are wearing on Manning,” he wrote.
Held at a military brig in Virginia at the Quantico Marine base since July, Private First Class Manning, 23, has been placed under a maximum-security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.
Under the strict rules, he is allowed out of his cell for only one hour a day for exercise outside or at an indoor gym, military officers say.
But Mr House said the Pentagon’s description of conditions was contradicted by what he learned from Private Manning.
“He has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation nor exercises in four full weeks,” Mr House said.
“When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he indeed receives exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise,” he wrote.
As a “precaution”, prison authorities have decided not to issue Private Manning cotton sheets and instead have provided two blankets and a pillow made of material that cannot be torn into pieces.
Private Manning told his visitor that “his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories”, Mr House said.
The army soldier was under a “Prevention of Injury'” order that was the cause of some of the more strict conditions, Mr House said, even though Private Manning allegedly had been cleared by a military psychologist.
“What Manning needs, and what his lawyer has already urged, is to have the unnecessary ‘Prevention of Injury’ order lifted that severely restricts his ability to exercise, communicate, and sleep,” he wrote.
The Pentagon has rejected allegations Private Manning is suffering from any abuse and insists he is being treated in the same way as other inmates under the “maximum custody” regime.
The WikiLeaks website has yet to disclose its source for a massive trove of classified US military and diplomatic documents published in recent months, but suspicion has focused on Private Manning, who worked as a low-ranking army intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Private Manning was arrested in May, and US authorities have yet to say when he will be put on trial on charges of violating federal criminal and military law, including transmitting classified information to a third party.
If found guilty, he faces up to 52 years in prison.