Outgoing US President Barack Obama has commuted whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, meaning she could be free in a matter of months.
The former army private leaked hundreds of thousands of sensitive US military documents to website WikiLeaks, in the country’s biggest ever breach of classified material.
Chelsea was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2010, but the White House said this week she will have her sentence commuted and is expected to be released on May 17, the New York Times reported.
She was known as Bradley Manning at the time of her arrest, and has since received gender transition surgery in prison. But she told the New York Times she has struggled with “anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression” in prison and has twice tried to take her own life.
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) January 16, 2017
Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Chelsea, said Obama’s move “could literally save Chelsea’s life”.
“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care,” he said.
“We are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
Human Rights Watch said President Obama “should be lauded for the decision” to commute Chelsea’s sentence, which they said “was the longest sentence in US history for a leak of government information.”
“[It was] a punishment that was disproportionate and, as we now know, placed a transgender woman in a position of vulnerability in a men’s prison,” Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah St. Vincent said.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange earlier this month offered to give himself up in exchange for Chelsea’s freedom.
Assange has been holed up for four years in London’s Ecuadorian embassy avoiding extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.
Assange: "Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning's clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible."
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
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