Worldwide protests planned on eve of Bradley Manning trial

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Rallies are planned this weekend in dozens of cities across the globe in support of Private first class Bradley Manning as the former Army intelligence analyst prepares to stand trial for the largest intelligence leak in United States history.

The military court-martial against the 25-year-old soldier begins
Monday in Ft. Meade, Maryland and is expected to continue
throughout the summer. Manning faces a life in prison if
convicted of the most serious of the counts against him – aiding
the enemy – but presiding judge Col. Denise Lind previously said
she’d credit the alleged leaker with 112 days due to the egregious conditions he
endured while held for roughly nine months in a US Marine brig.

Manning is charged with uploading hundreds of thousands of
sensitive documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks,
including US State Department diplomatic cables, war logs from Iraq and
Afghanistan and detainee assessment files for men held at the
military’s controversial Guantanamo Bay prison. He admitted to leaking the documents during
pretrial testimony presented in February. Army prosecutors
say al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula benefited by WikiLeaks’
publishing of the documents, and a member of the Navy SEALs team
that executed the lethal raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad,
Pakistan compound is expected to take the stand during a
closed-door court hearing in the coming weeks.

Last week marked three years to the day since Manning was
captured by US authorities in Iraq while on duty and brought into
custody. He spent nearly two months inside of a cage in Kuwait before being transferred to Quantico
Marine Base in Northern Virginia, where for most of a year he was
subjected to treatment considered by a United Nations special
rapporteur to be tantamount to torture. He has spent the last two months
imprisoned at an Army facility in Leavenworth, Kansas, though
he’s been carted to-and-from Ft. Meade outside of Baltimore since
December 2011 when his pretrial hearings began.

Supporters of the soldier and his defense counsel asked the court to drop charges
against the soldier not just due to the conditions at Quantico but because of the
more than 1,000 days he’s been held in pretrial confinement.
Demonstrators will gather at Ft. Meade on the eve of the
court-martial and at other sites around the globe this weekend to
pay tribute to a man hailed as a whistleblower by some but
condemned by the country he swore to protect.

Demonstrations have been held at Quantico, Ft. Meade and other
sites since Manning was apprehended in May 2010, but organizers
of this weekend’s event near the military court expect it to be
the largest of its kind ever. Rallies elsewhere will occur on at
least four continents.

Daniel Ellsberg, a former Department of Defense employee who
infamously leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, is
expected to speak at Ft. Meade on Saturday and in nearby
Washington, DC on Sunday.

Americans who care about the future of our country need to be
involved in Bradley’s defense
,” Ellsberg wrote in a statement
this month. “The defining issues of the twenty-first century,
including the transparency and accountability of our government,
are at stake. I believe history is on the side of those who seek
to reveal the truth, not on the side of those who seek to conceal
it
.”

 Daniel Ellsberg, a former Department of Defense employee. (Reuters)

Organizers expect as many as 1,000 supporters at Saturday’s rally
at the Army base, and the military acknowledged this weekend that
the number of press credential requests submitted for the trial
is five times what Ft. Meade’s media center can accommodate.
Offsite, however, rallies are expected to be held in more than
two dozen major American and international cities.

On June 1, events in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, Italy
and South Korea will coincide with the rally outside of Ft. Meade
as well as others planned in cities across the US.

Busses will bring supporters from all over the US to Ft. Meade on
Saturday for a march from the gates of the facility to an offsite
location where Ellsberg will be joined by a number of other
well-known advocates of the soldier, including former State
Department official Col. Ann Wright and anti-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
activist Lt. Dan Choi.

In London, Manning supporters will gather outside the US Embassy
to rally in support. The Consulate General of the United States
will be the site of a similar event in Toronto, Ontario, as will
the US embassies in Rome, Italy and Seoul, South Korea. At least
20 events will occur in just the US on Saturday, including
protests in city parks and military bases, and demonstrators in
Toledo, Ohio will march in support of Pfc. Manning during the
historic King Wamba Parade in Toledo, Ohio. Other gatherings are
planned internationally when the court-martial begins on Monday
as part of an International Solidarity Week of Action organized
by the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley believed that the American people have a right to
know the truth about what our government does around the world in
our name. We will send a message to the military prosecuting
authority, and President Obama, that Bradley Manning is a patriot
and heroic truth-teller
,” the Support Network wrote of the
events.

On Sunday, Ellsberg will join attorney Michael Ratner and others
at a church in Washington to speak about the case. Ratner is the
president emeritus at the Center for Constitutional Rights and
serves as the American attorney for Julian Assange, founder and
publisher of WikiLeaks. Assange has been inside of the Ecuadorian
Embassy in London for 11 months in order to avoid extradition to
Sweden where he is wanted for questioning in regards to
allegation of sex crimes.

Last week, Assange spoke to Democracy Now! about the US
government’s allegation that Manning aided the enemy by going to
WikiLeaks.

If that precedent is allowed to be erected, it will do two
things. Firstly, it means it’s a potential death penalty for any
person in the military speaking to a journalist about a sensitive
matter. Secondly, it also embroils the journalist and the
publication in that chain of communicating, they would say, to
the enemy, and therefore making them susceptible, as well, to the
Espionage Act, which also has capital offenses. And that is part
of the US – that latter part is part of the US attack on
WikiLeaks, including myself
,” Assange said.

Manning is charged with violating the Espionage Act, aiding the
enemy and a number of other counts. He pleaded guilty to lesser
offenses earlier this year carrying a possible 20 year prison
sentence, but the Army said they’d continue to pursue all charges.

This article originally appeared on: RT