A US military judge ruled Tuesday that the pre-trial punishment of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], who is accused of leaking confidential documents to WikiLeaks [website; JURIST news archive], was illegal and excessive. Army Colonel Denise Lind, who is overseeing the pre-trial hearing, determined that the extended solitary confinement and suicide restraints used on Manning during his detention at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. were "more rigorous than necessary" and that any sentence levied upon Manning will be reduced by 112 days [AP report] to reflect the abuses of his detention. Lind ruled that though the punishment was illegal it did not warrant having the charges against him thrown out of court. During his detention Manning was kept alone in a windowless cell for 23 hours per day and that was bound within a "suicide smock" to restrict his physical movement. Lawyers for the government had conceded that Manning had been held seven days too long in suicide watch status and recommended that any sentence be mitigated by seven days to reflect that abuse. Thus far Manning has spent 959 days in pretrial detention.
Manning's case has engendered a great deal of controversy. In November the judge overseeing the case accepted a partial guilty plea offered by Manning [JURIST reports] earlier in the month. In August JURIST guest columnist Philip Cave argued that the lack of transparency [JURIST comment] in Manning's case undermines the validity of the eventual verdict. In June Lind ordered the prosecution to submit to her a number of files that were allegedly withheld from the defense during discovery [JURIST report]. Earlier in June Lind denied a motion [JURIST report] to dismiss eight of the 22 charges against Manning after his defense had argued they were unconstitutionally vague. In May UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez accused the US government of cruel and inhuman treatment [JURIST report] of Manning. The US military court referred Manning's case for court-martial in February after a US Army panel of experts declared Manning competent to stand trial [JURIST reports] last April.