Chelsea Manning sentenced to solitary confinement for trying to kill herself

The 28-year-old is serving a 35-year sentence in Kansas 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Saturday 24 September 2016 13:14 BST
Chelsea Manning is currently serving a 35 year sentence in prison
Chelsea Manning is currently serving a 35 year sentence in prison (AFP/Getty)

Experts have denounced a decision by the US military to sentence Chelsea Manning to solitary confinement after she tried to kill herself in an “act of desperation”.

Manning, the transgender solider who was jailed for leaking classified information to Wikileaks, faces up to two weeks in solitary for attempting to take her own life, said a campaign group that supports her. A disciplinary board at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said the punishment was also for possessing a supposedly prohibited book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, by Gabriella Coleman, which is about the hacking group Anonymous.

The group Fight for the Future, which is supporting Manning, said she was informed of the punishment late on Thursday. Seven of the fourteen days of sentence were suspended, but could be enforced if Manning gets in trouble in the next six months.

Lawyers for Manning said the suicide attempt was linked to her despair that she may not be able to proceed in ongoing gender transition to a woman.

Military parole rules could allow her to leave prison after serving seven years.

Campaigners have condemned the sentence and said it could create more problems for the 28-year-old.

“Forcing Chelsea back into solitary confinement as a punishment for her suicide attempt is extremely worrisome to me and counterproductive to Chelsea's mental and physical health,” Nancy Hollander, a lawyer for Manning, told the Associated Press.

“Essentially she is now being tortured as punishment for an act of desperation.”

No date was given for the sentence to start. Manning was quoted in statement issued by the group as saying she could appeal the punishment.

“I am feeling hurt. I am feeling lonely. I am embarrassed by the decision. I don't know how to explain it,” Manning said.

Ms Coleman, an academic who wrote the book Manning was reading, said on Twitter: "Writing a book that is treated as subversive by the government is a dream; having it used against a whistleblower is a nightmare and travesty."

Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at the military prison after being arrest in 2010 and convicted of leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was an intelligence analyst in Iraq at the time.

A spokesman for the US Army, Wayne Hall, said it “would be inappropriate” to comment at this time.

This month, Manning went on a hunger strike, agreeing to end it only when the Army said she would be allowed to receive gender transition surgery. She began hormone therapy in 2015.

Another layer for Manning, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), questioned the logic of “our systems of incarceration punishing people with the cruelty of solitary for attempting to end their life”.

Among the files Manning leaked was a gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing on suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007, an attack that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists.

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