Former Army intelligence analyst and Whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been in jail for nearly three weeks for refusing to testify before a grand jury in closed-door hearing. Her supporters say she has been kept in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, and they are raising concerns about the impact it is having on her health.
Manning was taken into custody on March 8, after she was found in contempt of court in a case involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Her attorneys told reporters that she can be held for the term of the grand jury, up to a maximum of 18 months.
“As everybody knows, Chelsea has tremendous courage. Our primary concern at this point is her health while she is confined,” Attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said. “Judge Hilton did find her in contempt in open court and did order her remanded to ADC.”
In addition to calling for her release, Manning’s supporters have raised concerns about her health while she is in jail. They say she has been placed in administrative segregation, or another term to describe solitary confinement in which she is forced to stay in her cell for 22 hours a day.
In a statement, Manning’s team said she is not allowed to be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, and has no access to books or reading material. They also noted that she has not been outside since she was detained, and she is only permitted to make phone calls and to step outside her cell between 1 and 3 a.m.
One journalist argued that “Manning’s current conditions of confinement would be perilous to anyone. But to subject a torture survivor to further inhumane treatment is unconscionable. It’s hard to view this as anything other than a vindictive vendetta.”
It is important to note that this case has been carried out in secret, and while we know that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is mentioned in the indictment, it is still not clear what he is accused of, or why Manning was called to testify.
The federal prosecutor in the case claimed that the intent was simply for Manning to testify and to comply with the court order and the grand jury’s investigation. She argued that Manning could change her mind at any time.
However, Manning has noted that she was already questioned during a court-martial in 2013. She said she gave an extensive testimony about her disclosure of more than 700,000 classified documents, which were published by WikiLeaks in 2010.
Manning said she stands by her previous testimony, and she morally objects to the current process being carried out in secret. She also noted that it has been used in the past to entrap activists for protected political speech.
“In the interest of transparency, what we really want to do is get the motion made public, because it is currently sealed. And also to have the hearing to hear the motion be made public,” Manning told reporters outside of the courthouse.
Now it remains to seen, how long Chelsea Manning will be detained, what impact the current conditions will have on her health, and when the details in this case involving WikiLeaks will finally be released to the public.