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Obama says Bradley Manning is guilty, before he has been convicted

This is a guest post by Peter Tatchell

Bradley Manning: One year in jail, without trial

Cameron and Clegg refuse to support Manning and his Welsh mother

“US President, Barack Obama has declared Private Bradley Manning guilty of passing classified information to Wikileaks, even before he has gone on trial and been convicted,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation

“The President, who is a former lawyer, should know better. This would be contempt of court in the UK. Such a high-level assertion that Manning is guilty must seriously prejudice the likelihood that Manning will receive a fair trial,” said Mr Tatchell.

When questioned about Bradley Manning in San Francisco in April by Logan Price, Obama declared: “He broke the law….he dumped (classified material).”

See this video recording of Obama saying this:

“Manning is a US citizen but also a British citizen via his Welsh mother. During the one year he has been in detention, he has received no British consular support. Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg have failed to help him. They never spoke out publicly against the physical and mental abuse he suffered for many months at Quantico military prison in Virginia. As far as we know, they did not make any private appeals to the US government and military to halt this abuse,” said Mr Tatchell.

Manning’s mother has requested assistance from UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to ensure a British consular visit to her son. This request was ignored:

“The coalition government needs to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and civil liberties by pressing the US government to drop all charges on the grounds that what Manning allegedly did was in the public interest and justifiably exposed criminal acts that are illegal under international law,” Mr Tatchell added.

There is a House of Commons public meeting in support of Bradley Manning this Tuesday 24 May 2011, 6pm – 7.30pm, Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons. Speakers: Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, David Leigh, The Guardian and Emily Butselaar, Index on Censorship.

“This week marks the first anniversary of the arrest and detention of Bradley Manning, who is accused of passing classified US diplomatic and military documents to Wikileaks,” added Mr Tatchell.

“For many months, Manning was imprisoned in harsh, inhuman conditions at Quantico marine corps base in Virginia. He was subjected to long periods of solitary confinement and many extreme deprivations, which amounted to pre-conviction punishment. After worldwide protests, he was recently transferred to a standard medium security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where his treatment has significantly improved.

“It is alleged that Manning released video footage of a US Apache helicopter attack that gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians in 2007, including two Reuters journalists and men who had gone to the aid of the wounded. Two children were also gravely injured when the US helicopter opened fire on their van in the same attack. The military video records US soldiers laughing and joking at the killings, and insulting the victims. Watch it here:

“This slaughter had previously been the subject of a cover-up by the US armed forces, which claimed dishonestly that the helicopter had been engaged in combat operations against armed enemy forces.

“It is allegedly only thanks to Bradley Manning that we now know the truth about the killing of these innocent civilians – and about the killing of hundreds of other civilians in unreported and undocumented incidents.

“Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which exposed US lies and criminality in Vietnam, has hailed Manning as a hero.

“Manning is a humanist and a man with a conscience. When he discovered human rights violations by the US armed forces and duplicity by the US government, he was shocked and distressed. He became disillusioned with his country’s foreign and military policy; believing it was betraying the US ideals of democracy and human rights.

“The US failings that first triggered Manning’s disillusionment occurred soon after he was posted to Iraq in October 2009 as an intelligence analyst. He discovered US military collusion with the repression of dissent in Iraq; in particular “watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police….for printing ‘anti-Iraqi’ literature.” The offending literature exposed corruption in the US-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. When Manning complained that US forces should not be assisting with the suppression of free speech and the right to protest, he was told to keep quiet, with the admonishment that the US armed forces should be doing more to silence opponents of the Maliki regime.

“If Manning blew the whistle on war crimes and cover ups by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is a hero. He is a defender of democracy and human rights. His actions are based on the principle that citizens have a right to know what the government is doing in their name. Manning should not be in prison. Instead, the US should put on trial those who killed innocent civilians and those who protected them.

“Even many Americans agree that Bradley Manning is a true patriot, not a traitor. He reveres the founding ideals of the US – an open, honest government accountable to the people, which pursues its policies by lawful means that respect human rights. At great personal risk, he sought to expose grave crimes that were perpetrated and then hidden by the US government and military. These are the characteristics of a man of conscience, motivated by altruism. Any misjudgements he made in his alleged release of certain documents are far outweighed by the positive good overall. Thanks to Manning, we, the people, know the truth.

“Critics say that Wikileaks was sometimes indiscriminate and even reckless in its release of some classified documents. This may be true in a small number of cases. Regardless, these releases were done by Wikileaks, not by Manning. He allegedly passed the information in good faith for publication where appropriate. He did not publish the documents. Wikileaks did. Manning cannot be blamed for any shortcomings in the way Wikileaks released the information,” said Mr Tatchell.

TAKE ACTION – What you can do:

  1. Write to Bradley Manning. Send him your support: PFC Bradley Manning 89289. Fort Leavenworth Military Detention Centre, 830 Sabalu Road, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, KS 66027, USA.
  1. Sign the petition in support of Bradley Manning:
  1. Ask your MP and MEPs to urge the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to ensure a British consular visit to Bradley Manning, and to press the US government to drop all charges and release him. You can email your MP and MEPs direct via this website:
  1. Phone or write to the US Embassy in London – 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE – 0207 499 9000
  1. Write to President Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC20500, USA
  1. Please tweet this message: If Bradley Manning blew the whistle on US war crimes, he’s a hero. Free him. Sign the petition: #bradleymanning