Trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning files appeal against ‘unjust’ 35-year prison sentence

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Military whistleblower Chelsea Manning has filed her appeal against her 35-year prison sentence.

Private Manning, who announced her transition to female in 2013, is currently imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth military prison after leaking details of classified government documents concerning alleged war crimes and rights abuses via WikiLeaks.

Her appeal describes the 35-year prison sentence as “perhaps the most unjust sentence in the history of the military justice system” given the nature of her offence, which helped bring to light a number of serious abuses and powers.

It states: “No whistleblower in American history has been sentenced this harshly…  Manning disclosed the materials because under the circumstances she thought it was the right thing to do.”

“She believed the public had a right to know about the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of life, and the extent to which the government sought to hide embarrassing information of its wrongdoing.”

The brief contrasts her treatment to the two years’ probation handed to former CIA director David Petraeus – who leaked classified information to his biographer while having an affair with her.

The appeal also contends that the Espionage Act that Manning is charged under is unconstitutional.

It states: “The government will argue the [Espionage] Act concerns national security, an important issue to be sure.

“But the military’s national security interests should not trump two of our Constitution’s most cherished rights, the right to due process and the right of free speech.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a brief supporting Manning.

It says: “The conviction and sentence of PFC Manning under the Espionage Act must be overturned for two reasons.

“First, the Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague, because it provides the government a tool that the First Amendment forbids: a criminal statute that allows the government to subject speakers and messages it dislikes to discriminatory prosecution.

“Second, even if the Act were not unconstitutional in all its applications, the military judge’s application of the Act to PFC Manning violated the First Amendment because the military judge did not permit PFC Manning to assert any defense that would allow the court to evaluate the value to public discourse of any of the information she disclosed.

“The military judge therefore failed to weigh the public interest in the disclosures against the government interest in preventing them, as required by the First Amendment.

“For these reasons, PFC Manning’s conviction for violating the Espionage Act should be vacated.”

PinkNews has regularly reported on Manning, who has sued the US Army for her right to transition behind bars but is forced to cut her hair short. Manning herself previously had her access to PinkNews clippings restricted.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation warned that clippings of news coverage sent to Manning via the prison postal service, including a PinkNews report, had been seized by prison authorities.

It is unclear on what grounds the clippings were removed.