Chelsea Manning celebrates freedom with moving Instagram post: 'First steps of freedom!!'

She took her first steps of freedom as a woman

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The Independent US

Chelsea Manning has taken her first steps of freedom as a woman, and commemorated the occasion like any 27-year-old might celebrate a big day: posting a photo on Instagram.

Ms Manning posted a photo of her black Converse soon after being released from military prison where she served seven years of a 35-year sentence for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

“First steps of freedom!!” she wrote on Instagram alongside a smiling emoji and the hashtag “chelseaisfree”.

Ms Manning’s sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama in what was one of his final acts as president earlier this year. Mr Obama’s decision to cut the transgender soldier’s sentence angered his successor, Donald Trump, who called the former intelligence analyst an “ungrateful traitor” and said she “should never have been released from prison.”

 

 

First steps of freedom!! 😄 . . #chelseaisfree

A post shared by Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea87) on

 

In a statement released by her legal team, Ms Manning expressed joy and optimism for her future.

“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived,” Ms Manning said of leaving the US military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”

Ms Manning was convicted in 2013 of 20 charges, after leaking diplomatic cables and military files she gained access to as an Army intelligence analyst. Those charges included six Espionage Act violations, theft, and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge she faced, aiding the enemy.

Those leaks revealed abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US military, the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, killings by military contractors in Iraq, Afghan civilian deaths and other incidents.

Those astonishing revelations sparked global outrage over what seemed to be a disregard by the US military for the impact of war on civilians. The leaks were also criticised by some who said that exposing the country’s most sensitive secrets endangered information sources. The State Department quickly moved to protect sources in the aftermath.

In prison, Ms Manning also became an inspiration for transgender people as she struggled with identifying as a woman while in American military custody. Her representatives allege that she was subjected to violence in prison and that she was mistreated by the military, which forced her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison. They allege that her physical and mental health care was restricted and that she was not allowed to keep her “feminine” haircut.

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