The Australian Greens and the WikiLeaks Party today issued separate statements condemning the conviction of Bradley Manning, US Private First Class, on 20 charges getting him a sentence of 136 years in jail.
The US court found Manning guilty of seven out of eight espionage charges, five theft charges, two computer fraud charges, five military counts of violating a lawful general regulation, and one of wanton publication of intelligence on the internet.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam slammed the verdict saying the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for whistleblowers and a free press not only in the US, but globally. He said the trial has not been fair with many closed sessions and with key documents withheld from Manning.
The Obama Administration produced 80 witnesses against 10 on Manning’s defence team, although he wanted to call on 48 witnesses.
The Greens Senator said Manning has embarrassed US officials for the insecurity of their information systems, for routine and cavalier violations of the Geneva Conventions revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs and Iraq files, and the hubris and poor taste of diplomats revealed through Cablegate. He said this is not damage, but “a public service.”
“We are all in Bradley Manning’s debt. He saw wrongs and did not turn away. With his decision to become a whistleblower, he presented some brutal and haunting truths about wars involving Australia which cannot and will not be locked away.
“His trial and treatment now exposes the lack of transparency and accountability we strive for in democracies and the vulnerability of journalists and publishers who are clearly not free to scrutinise powerful institutions as they should.” Senator Ludlam concluded.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also criticised the unfair treatment of the case. Speaking from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Assange said Manning conviction represents “a dangerous national security extremism”.
“Bradley Manning isn’t guilty of anything in that he’s actually very heroic for demanding government transparency and accountability and exposing the American people and the rest of the world to the crimes committed by the American government,” Assange said.
Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks Party released a public statement:
The Conviction of Bradley Manning and the Implications for WikiLeaks Party Senate Candidate Julian Assange
This is a Statement by WikiLeaks Party Senate Candidates Kellie Tranter (NSW), Gerry Georgatos (WA ) and Leslie Cannold (VIC)
The conviction of Private Bradley Manning at his Pentagon driven trial is the clearest warning of the fate awaiting WikiLeaks founder and WikiLeaks Party Victorian Senate candidate Julian Assange, if he is extradited to the United States.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr should also admit that his statements about Mr Assange not being of interest to the US are palpably false. Mr Assange would face a Grand Jury indictment alleging espionage, treason, and terrorism and face a life sentence locked up in a US jail.
Twenty-five-year-old Manning’s trial made a mockery of the lawful justice system although even it did not agree with the overzealous prosecutorial claim that Manning had ‘aided the enemy’. The media was kept at a distance and under constant surveillance. In the closing days an armed police team patrolled the media centre and searched reporters using hand-held metal detectors. One striking feature of the prosecutors’ case was that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were the main game in the prosecution of Private Manning.
In evidence and post-trial submissions, prosecutors alleged that Julian Assange was the chief culprit, instigator and distributor of the classified war logs, cables and film footage from US war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Manning case proves that Australian Foreign Minister Carr is lying when he claims repeatedly that Assange is not in any legal danger from US authorities. When Mr Carr says that Washington does not want to extradite Assange from Europe, this is clearly not the case.
Carr, a former journalist with The Bulletin, is a member of the Media and Entertainment Alliance, which is committed to defending Assange’s legal and human rights.
As a union member and a lifelong ALP member, he should be demanding that Washington ends its protracted war against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and give an assurance that he is able to travel abroad without fear of arrest and extradition.
Senator Carr, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Australian Government cannot allow Assange to be treated in the same cruel fashion as Manning – solitary confinement, torture and a cowboy court process.
Mr Assange and WikiLeaks Party candidates will contest Senate seats in Victoria, NSW, and WA at the forthcoming federal election.