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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
The Aviva Premiership trophy
rugby union All the latest from Twickenham
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood
footballDanny Higginbotham: Tim Sherwood must play game of two halves to cause major upset
News
Caber is trained to help child victims of serious crimes testify
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor