For the first time in two years, Bradley Manning will speak publicly in a pretrial hearing that starts Tuesday and runs through Sunday, during which time he and his lawyers will argue inhumane treatment of the Army private in military prison justifies his release.
Manning, 24, is charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, in the largest security breach in American history. He was arrested in Iraq in 2010.
According to the Associated Press, Manning is expected to testify that his treatment while held at Virginia Marine Corps base Quantico included humiliation by guards, as well as solitary confinement in a small cell—sometimes naked—with no natural light.
As Manning's hearing began at Fort Meade in Maryland Tuesday, dozens of protesters stood outside in the pouring rain to demonstrate against the handling of the whistle-blower case. "FREE BRAD," was the message many protesters held up. "Blowing the whistle is not a crime," another sign read.
In Berkeley, California, an Occupy Oakland group held a protest event against Manning's "mistreatment" at the Marine Corps recruiting office there. And online, the hacker group Anonymous advocated for the soldier's release. "Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 991 days without trial," Anonymous tweeted. "If that's not an attack... on whistle-blowers, I don't know what is."
The AP reports that it is unlikely military judges will dismiss charges against Manning because of his pretrial punishment, but the Army private has also said he would plead guilty to reduced charges over the leaks.