Chelsea Manning has been released from jail

That could, however, change as early as next week

Photo: EPA Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning was released yesterday from the Virginia jail where she spent 62 days for refusing to testify about her past ties to WikiLeaks before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia. Attorneys for Manning, however said the release came on a technicality -  the grand jury’s term expired and she has already been served another subpoena. It demands she appear before a different grand jury on 16 May. Manning has vowed not to answer any questions and, therefore, could be returned to custody as early as next week.

“Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” her lawyers said.

Manning was jailed on 8 March for contempt, a process crime, for which she is not being punished; rather, her time in jail is intended to coerce her into cooperating. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion filed by her legal team to have her set free last month. On Monday, Manning attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen filed another motion: It declaring that she would never be convinced to cooperate and that any further confinement would, therefore, serve no legal purpose. In March, US District Judge Claude Hilton said the former soldier-turned-leaker-turned-activist would remain confined “until she purges.” Her lawyers hope to convince a new judge that this will never become a reality.

Manning’s refusal to testify is an act of protest, she’s said, against grand juries in general, which she asserts have been used historically to “entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Immunity is forced upon grand jury witnesses, negating their privilege against self-incrimination, and stripping them of any “right to remain silent.” The hearings are secret; there are no judges present; and the juries, comprised of 16-23 individuals, are not screened for personal biases. The rules of evidence do not apply.

During her 2013 court martial, Manning confessed to leaking more than 725,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks following her deployment as a US Army intelligence analyst to Iraq in 2009. The documents, acquired from a classified database known as CIDNE, included military reports, State Department diplomatic cables, and Guantanamo Bay detainee profiles, including the profiles of the Tipton Three, a group of British Muslims who were imprisoned at the facility between 2001 and 2004. The military ended up charging Manning with leaking only portions of a couple hundred documents and she was acquitted of aiding the enemy. Her 35-year sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama in one of his last acts of office.

Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy site’s founder, was himself arrested on 11 April after living for nearly seven years under asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US government has requested that Assange be extradited by the UK to face a felony charge of conspiracy to commit computer crimes related to Manning’s 2010 leak. Assange appeared in court via livestream to decline voluntary extradition to the US, where he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A London court found him guilty of jumping bail in 2012 and sentenced him this month to 50 weeks in prison.

Manning, meanwhile, faces no new criminal charges and has not been accused of doing anything illegal that she hasn’t already served time for in prison.

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