US embassies around the world are facing protests over the fate of a soldier accused of passing confidential information to Wikileaks. Bradley Manning, aged 23, has been described as a “prisoner of conscience” by human rights activists.
International protests over Manning’s treatment are expected on 20 March.
After being held pre-trial for ten months, Manning was informed earlier this month that he faces 22 charges further to the original charge. At least one of them could carry the death penalty.
While the US authorities are being guarded with information about him, he is believed to be held in a 12’ by 6’ cell without windows for 23 hours each day. He is reported to be required to wear leg irons when he leaves his cell for exercise.
It has also been reported that he is made to sleep naked and is given his clothes back only after roll call each morning. He is allowed books and writing materials only for short periods each day.
On 1 March, the authorities turned down a request to re-grade Manning as a medium security, rather than maximum security, prisoner.
Manning's treatment has been criticised by a number of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International.
It has been alleged that the authorities are hoping that Manning will give them a statement that will assist in bringing charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
But despite all the pressure, the Press Secretary for the Pentagon, Geoff Morell, has admitted that Manning “has been exemplary in terms of his behaviour on the cell block”.
A petition calling for Manning’s release has been launched by Courage to Resist, a US network which “supports the troops who refuse to fight”.
They insist that, “If Bradley Manning is indeed the source of these materials, the nation owes him our gratitude”.
Demonstrations have been planned at a number of US embassies this Sunday (20 March).
In London, the demonstrators will be addressed by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and veteran peace activist Bruce Kent. They will be joined by Ben Griffin, a former member of the UK’s SAS. Griffin now campaigns for the rights of forces personnel and acts as an advisor to Forces Watch.