Chelsea Manning found guilty but spared solitary confinement for contraband

Whistleblower and former United States Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, who had hit headlines in 2013 for leaking various documents relating to the Iraq war and 9/11 attacks on Twin Towers in United States, has been convicted on new charges by a military court.

Transgender Chelsea Manning is already serving  life in prison for leaking state secrets. Chelsea called on friends and supporters from prison to inform them that the military court has found her guilty of four charges. The charges on which the new conviction has been made look frivolous and include possession of LGBTQ reading material like the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair, and having a tube of expired toothpaste in her cell.

The military court awarded her punishment like 21 days of recreational restrictions and excluded her from time in the gym, library and outdoors. Though the punishment does not seem harsh, it can have an impact on her future hearings concerning parole or clemency. Manning told her supporters that she expects the convictions to delay her transition to minimum security custody status by years.

“When I spoke to Chelsea earlier today she wanted to convey the message to supporters that she is so thankful for the thousands of people from around the world who let the government know that we are watching and scrutinizing what happens to her behind prison walls,” said Chase Strangio, Manning’s attorney at the ACLU. “It was no doubt this support that kept her out of solitary confinement.”

A group called Fight for the Future in association RootsAction.org, Demand Progress and CodePink, had initiated a petition for leniency prior to the hearing and had drawn over 100,000 signatures from her supporters.

Manning who maintains contact with her supporters through her Twitter account said that she’s done nothing to warrant the hearing other than speak out on the treatment of prisoners and her struggle as a trans woman behind bars. She also said that the whole thing started when she complained that military correctional staff denied her access to the prison legal library. During the closed disciplinary hearing, Manning was required to present her own defense—the ACLU said that she’s been denied an attorney as punishment for unruly behavior.

“The fact that Chelsea had to face [the] four-hour Disciplinary Board without counsel, and will now be punished for daring to share her voice, sets a concerning precedent for the remaining decades of her incarceration,” said Strangio. “Not only does this punishment mean the immediate loss of library and recreation for Chelsea, but she also will carry these infractions through her parole and clemency process and will be held longer in the more restrictive custody where she is now incarcerated. No one should have to face the lingering threat of solitary confinement for reading and writing about the conditions we encounter in the world. Chelsea’s voice is critical to our public discourse about government accountability and trans Justice and we can only preserve it if we stay vigilant in our advocacy on her behalf.”

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