US Wikileaks soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning: I will live out the rest of my life as a woman

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The US soldier who was yesterday sentenced to 35 years in prison for her involvement in leaking large numbers of secret documents to Wikileaks, formerly known as Bradley Manning, has now revealed she will live out the rest of her life as a woman, and wishes to be referred to as Chelsea E Manning.

Last week, at a sentencing hearing, Manning apologised for hurting her country – although her supporters felt the confession had been forced.

In a statement read on the Today programme, Manning suggested she would begin to transition, and that she intended to live out the rest of her life as a woman. She said she had identified as female since childhood.

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the Army private wrote in the statement on Thursday. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.”

“I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility),” she continued in the statement. “I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”

The letter was signed “Chelsea E Manning.”

It is expected that Manning will serve her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, the only military prison for service member sentenced to ten years or more.

Speaking of the stress which Manning had spoken of during her trial, her lawyer David Coombes, and despite the statement from Manning, used male pronouns, said: “The stress that he was under was mostly to give context to what was going on at the time… It was never an excuse because that’s not what drove his actions. What drove his actions was a strong moral compass.”

Coombes said he hoped Manning would be pardoned. He said: “But I actually expect him to get pardoned…At least that’s what my hope is, that the president will in fact pardon him.”

He continued that he did not fear for the safety of his client in prison, and that Manning would not appeal to be incarcerated in an all-female prison. “Everyone that’s in a military prison is a first-time offender. These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out.”

Manning’s statement continued, to thank her supporters. It read: “I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years… Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.”

Ahead of the 25-year-old’s statement of apology last week, Navy Captain David Moulton, a psychiatrist, testified at the time of the 2010 leak that Manning felt abandoned by friends and family and had hit a rough patch with her boyfriend amid an isolating deployment.

The psychiatrist interviewed Manning for 21 hours after her arrest in 2010.

Prosecutors had asked for a 60-year sentence. Manning showed no emotion as the sentence was delivered on Wednesday. Judge Col Denise Lind declared Manning would be dishonourably discharged from the US Army and forfeit some of her pay. She was convicted in July on multiple espionage charges.