Thursday 18 July 2019

Manning's family plead for support

Protesters demonstrate outside the US Embassy, Dublin, in September, the day after Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison
Protesters demonstrate outside the US Embassy, Dublin, in September, the day after Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison

The family of a former US intelligence analyst jailed for leaking top-secret government files has pleaded for Ireland's support to have her freed.

One-time army private Chelsea Manning, previously known as Bradley, is serving a 35-year jail sentence in the States for a string of offences including espionage.

Her mother, Susan Manning, whose father was originally from Dublin, appealed to politicians today to keep the case on the political agenda and to fight for the human rights of the "national hero".

Joe Murray, from Irish-based global justice campaign group Afri, which organised the family's visit, said people seem to have forgotten about Chelsea's plight.

"They don't want the issue to be forgotten," Mr Murray said.

"They believe Chelsea is a hero, not a criminal. And they have asked that the Irish Government use its close friendship with the US and its position as a member of the European Union to highlight the case in whatever form they can, to become an advocate for Chelsea."

Ms Manning, her two sisters and brother met a string of left-wing politicians in the Dail, where they spoke of their close ties with Ireland.

Their father - Chelsea's grandfather - was born in Rathmines, while Chelsea's other grandfather was from the Cork area.

The family is to attend a public meeting in honour of Chelsea at Trinity College Dublin on Friday night, where Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four is to give a talk.

They, along with thousands of supporters around the world, believe Chelsea's actions were in the public interest and she should be freed from military prison Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

They claim it disproportionate that while Chelsea's leaks to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks - which included a classified video of a controversial US helicopter attack in Baghdad - led to a 35-year sentence, others guilty of more heinous crimes are given much shorter terms.

She was jailed for leaking thousands of sensitive US government documents to the website - the largest set of classified documents ever to be released to the public.

She was found guilty of charges under a US code of military justice and the country's Espionage Act.

Chelsea spent the first 13 years of her life in the US, where her mother had moved with her now estranged father.

The family returned to Wales, where Chelsea lived for around four years before she joined the US military.

"And the rest, as they say, is history," Mr Murray said.

Chelsea was sentenced in August to 35 years behind bars. However there is a chance she could be released under parole as early as 2012.

"That's the one glimmer of hope the Manning family has at this stage," Mr Murray said.

The 25-year-old was at the time of her sentencing known by her original identity - Bradley Manning, a man.

She announced shortly after that she wished to change her gender and be known as Chelsea.

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