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Manning's lawyers say punishment preceded trial in WikiLeaks case

Protesters hold signs in support of Pfc. Bradley E. Manning in front of Fort George C. Meade in Ft. Meade, Maryland, on Dec. 16, 2011.

BALTIMORE -- By the time he was brought to the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va., Army Pfc. Bradley Manning already was world-famous.

The former intelligence analyst had been accused of giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Now he was to be held for trial on charges that would include violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy.

At Quantico, where Manning was held from July 2010 until April 2011, he was singled out for punishment before his case had been heard, his lawyers say. At Fort Meade this week, they plan to ask a military judge to dismiss all the charges against him.

During Manning's first five months at Quantico, the lawyers say, he was held in "the functional equivalent of solitary confinement:" Confined to a six-by-eight-foot cell, with no window or natural light, for more than 23 and a half hours each day.

He was awakened at 5 a.m. each morning and required to remain awake until 10 p.m., his lawyers say. He was not permitted to lie on his bed or lean against the cell wall. He was not allowed to exercise in his cell.

Guards were required to check on his well-being every five minutes. If they could not see him -- if he was asleep under his blanket or turned to the wall -- they would wake him.

His lawyers say those and other "egregious" conditions at Quantico from his arrival to his transfer to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, amounted to illegal pretrial punishment, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the U.S. Constitution.

In court papers, lawyer David Coombs says commanders kept Manning in maximum-security custody and prevention-of-injury status in spite of a favorable security assessment and the recommendations of brig psychiatrists.

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According to Coombs, the psychiatrists said Manning did not present a risk to himself, and the prevention-of-injury status was causing him psychological harm.

Coombs says a senior officer, whose name is blacked out on documents he has released, told brig officials that "nothing is going to happen to PFC Manning on my watch" and "nothing's going to change."

Coombs describes the conditions as the "flagrant violation of Pfc. Manning's constitutional right to not be punished prior to trial."

The brig at Quantico was closed in December 2011 as part of the national military base realignment process known as BRAC. A spokesman for the Marine Corps base at Quantico could not be reached for comment on Friday. The Marine Corps and the Pentagon have said Manning was not mistreated.

At the Fort Leavenworth Joint Regional Correctional Facility, Coombs says, Manning, now 24, has been classified as a medium-custody detainee. He has been allowed to eat and socialize with other detainees, walk around without metal shackles and keep personal hygiene items in his cell.

Dwight H. Sullivan, a former Marine Corps attorney who now teaches military law at George Washington University, says military law allows for the dismissal of charges against a suspect who is found to have been punished before trial -- but such cases are rare.

"It's not something that one often sees," Sullivan said. Generally, he said, a judge who finds that a suspect has been punished before trial may credit that punishment against any eventual sentence.

Should the charges against Manning stand, he is seeking a "10-to-1" credit -- a credit of 10 days served for every day he has spent in pretrial confinement.

As such, Sullivan said, Manning has "great incentive" to get his allegations on the record now.

Manning, who enlisted in the Army in 2007, faces a court-martial scheduled to begin in January. Coombs lists him as a witness in the pretrial hearing to begin Tuesday at Fort Meade, when he may testify about his confinement at Quantico.

His detention drew concern from groups including Amnesty International, the British government and the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.

Amnesty the conditions "are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities.

"Manning has not been convicted of any offense, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention," the human rights group said. "This undermines the United States' commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the conditions "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid" and resigned.

After Crowley's remarks, President Barack Obama said he had been assured that Manning was being held under appropriate conditions that met basic standards.

In court papers, Coombs says Manning was held in a cell directly in front of a guard post "to facilitate his constant monitoring." When he was moved outside his cell, for a shower or for 20 minutes of "sunshine call" in a small concrete yard, the brig would be locked down and Manning would be shackled with metal hand and leg restraints and accompanied by at least two guards. He was not permitted to work.

Owing to the prevention-of-injury status, Coombs says, Manning was issued a "suicide mattress" without a pillow, and a tear-proof "suicide blanket," which the lawyer says was coarse, did not retain heat and gave Manning rashes and carpet burns.

According to Coombs, a frustrated Manning told a brig official that if he wanted to harm himself, he could do so with the waistband of his underwear or his flip-flops. He was then forced to surrender all clothing at night and sleep naked.

Manning was forced to stand naked at parade rest in view of multiple guards, Coombs says. Later, he was required to wear a "suicide smock," which Coombs describes as heavy and restrictive, and says nearly choked Manning.

Manning is accused of sending raw field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world and a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad to be published online.

If he is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The U.S. Army Trial Judiciary will now assign a military judge, who will set a date for Manning's arraignment, motion hearings and trial.

During a preliminary hearing in December, Army prosecutors called computer forensic investigators who testified that materials uploaded to WikiLeaks came from computers on which Manning worked.

Manning's attorneys sought to portray him as a troubled young man who struggled with gender identity, was isolated from his fellow soldiers and should not have been given access to the classified materials.

Manning attended the hearing but did not speak. It was his first public appearance since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.

During his detention, his case became a cause celebre among anti-war activists, who say the footage of the 2007 Apache helicopter attack that he is alleged to have released appears to show evidence of a war crime.

The attack in Baghdad left 12 dead, including a Reuters journalist and his driver. In the video, released by WikiLeaks as "Collateral Murder," the American helicopter crew can be heard laughing and referring to Iraqis as "dead bastards."

Manning's supporters say whoever released the footage is a hero who should be protected as a whistle-blower.

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