US Military Judge Denise Lind on Wednesday sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] to 35 years in prison for his disclosure of classified information to the anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks [website]. Manning was found guilty [JURIST report] last month of violating the Espionage Act [18 USC § 794 et seq., text] but was acquitted of the more serious charge of "aiding the enemy." In 2010 Manning leaked more than 700,000 government documents, diplomatic cables and a classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of a number of civilians and two Reuters journalists. The US Army [official website] formally charged Manning in July of 2010, but his bench trial did not begin until last month, nearly three years after his initial arrest [JURIST report]. Manning apologized [WP report] during his sentencing hearing. He is required to serve one-third of the sentence [WP report] before he becomes eligible for parole, according to the military. He will receive credit for the 1,293 days he has been confined prior to the sentence.
Manning's has sparked controversy since his arrest in 2010. In April the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected a request by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to gain access to court documents from Manning's case. That month the judge raised the burden of proof [JURIST report] in order to require the government to prove that Manning "knowingly" aided al Qaeda. In February Manning pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to 10 of the 22 charges against him for providing classified materials to Wikileaks. Also in February the judge dismissed a motion [JURIST report] that argued for Manning's release based on a lack of a speedy trial. In January the judge ruled that prosecutors must prove that Manning knowingly aided the enemy and that the treatment he received while in military custody was illegal and excessive [JURIST report]. In November the judge accepted [JURIST report] a partial guilty plea to several of the minor charges against Manning. In August JURIST guest columnist Philip Cave argued [JURIST comment] that the lack of transparency in Manning's case will undermine the validity of the eventual verdict.