Bradley Manning's lawyers to petition Barack Obama over 35-year sentence for passing US secrets to WikiLeaks

Jail term is longest in cases of military or government leaks

New York

Bradley Manning, the former US Army intelligence analyst, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

Shortly after the unprecedented sentence was handed down by Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over Manning's court martial, the 25-year-old's lawyer said he would petition Barack Obama to pardon his client or commute his sentence to time served.

Colonel Lind could have sentenced Manning to up to 90 years in prison after finding him guilty last month of most of the charges levelled against him, including those connected to breaches of the US Espionage Act. US government prosecutors had sought a prison term of at least 60 years. Manning's defence had suggested a term of no more than 25 years.

Although not as severe as the term requested by the prosecution, the sentence is the longest in history in a case over a leak to the media of secret US government documents. Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the Liberty and National Security Programme at New York University's Brennan Centre for Justice, said Manning's penalty should be compared with the next-longest sentence, the two-year term handed down in the case against Samuel Morison, a naval-intelligence analyst, in the mid-1980s. "This is far, far longer," she said. Today, the young army private stood to attention as Colonel Lind read out the sentence during a brief hearing in a courtroom at the Fort Meade military base in Maryland. Flanked by his lawyers, Manning did not appear to react as the judge said that he would be dishonourably discharged from the US military, his rank would be lowered and he would have to forfeit his pay. When she announced the prison term, somebody in the courtroom was reported to have gasped. As Manning was led out of the room, supporters shouted, "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley," and, "You're our hero".

Later, Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, recounted how his client had tried to reassure him after the announcement by saying: "Don't worry about it. It's all right. I know you did your best. It's going to be OK."

The prison term will be reduced by more than three years to reflect time served. Manning, who was a low-level analyst in Baghdad, will also receive 112 days' credit for inhumane treatment at a military prison in Quantico, Virginia. Under the rules, he must serve at least a third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. Factoring in the credits, he could, in a best-case scenario, receive parole in his early- to mid-thirties.

Responding to the sentence, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement: "This hard-won minimum term represents a significant tactical victory. The United States government had charged Bradley Manning with a capital offence and other charges carrying over 135 years of incarceration.

"His defence team is now appealing to the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals in relation to this sentence and also for due-process violations during the trial."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for civil and constitutional rights in the US, said the sentence marked "a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate". Manning's supporters, meanwhile, were planning to mount a rally outside the White House.

Manning's motives have been debated ever since he handed the first of the leaked documents detailing US activities in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks in 2010. Later, he disclosed a trove of additional material, including numerous diplomatic cables.

According to his lawyers, he was motivated not by a desire to harm the US – in her ruling last month, Colonel Lind acquitted Manning of "aiding the enemy", the most serious charge levelled against him – but to prompt a debate about his country's policies.

The Brennan Centre's Ms Goitein said the sentence was a victory for the Obama administration, which, though it has been aggressive in its pursuit of whistleblowers, has struggled to secure convictions or long sentences. In this regard, the sentence was "precedent-setting", she said.

The war on terror: Convictions

Lynndie England American Photographed abusing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.  She was convicted of conspiracy, maltreating detainees and committing an indecent act and served half of a three-year sentence. 

Omar Ahmed Khadr Canadian Aged 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2002. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and spying. He was sentenced to eight years.

Majid Shoukat Khan Pakistani Arrested in 2003 on a visit to Pakistan. He was charged in 2012 and pleaded guilty as part of a pre-trial agreement to co-operate. His sentencing is delayed by four years to allow him to do so.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Consultant Configuration, SQL, SQL Server

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Technical Cons...

Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

Commercial IT Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Commercial IT Solicitor - London We h...

Business Analyst / Project Manager - Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home