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February 27, 2013

Judge refuses to dismiss charges in WikiLeaks case

FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army private accused of sending classified material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks has not been denied a speedy trial despite his lengthy pretrial confinement, a military judge ruled Tuesday.

Attorneys for Pfc. Bradley Manning had asked the judge to dismiss all charges against the former intelligence analyst because he’s been detained for two years and nine months. Defense attorney David Coombs argued that prosecutors dragged their feet and that a commander rubber-stamped their requests for delay after delay.

Prosecutors said the delays were reasonable, given the complexity of the case and the volume of classified material involved. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed Tuesday with prosecutors, with a few minor exceptions. She denied the defense motion, letting the charges against Manning stand.

Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence. His court-martial is scheduled to start June 3 at Fort Meade, an Army base between Baltimore and Washington.

The 25-year-old Oklahoma native is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified records and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.

The Obama administration has said releasing the information threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America’s relations with other governments. Experts say that by seeking to punish Manning, the administration is sending a strong message that such leaks will not be tolerated.

Manning supporters — who held events Saturday to mark his 1,000 days in confinement — consider him a whistleblowing hero whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring in late 2010.

Manning has offered to plead guilty to reduced charges for 10 of the 22 counts he faces. Lind was scheduled to consider on Thursday whether to accept that plea after questioning Manning under oath about his actions. If she were to accept the plea, Manning would face 20 years in prison on those charges.

However, Manning has not reached a plea deal with prosecutors. Even if the plea were to be accepted, prosecutors could still pursue convictions on the other charges, including aiding the enemy and several counts of theft of government property.

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