Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Manning's attorney, filed a new motion in an Alexandria, Virginia, court on Monday seeking her client's release. Manning has been jailed since March 5, when she refused to testify before a federal grand jury as part of its investigation into the document publishing website WikiLeaks. When Manning made public the US Army and US state documents she stole in 2009, which exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, she did so using the website, which was founded by Julian Assange.
"After two months of confinement, and using every legal mechanism available so far, I can — without any hesitation — state that nothing will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for that matter," Manning wrote in a statement included in the court filing.
"The idea I hold the keys to my own cell is an absurd one, as I face the prospect of suffering either way due to this unnecessary and punitive subpoena: I can either go to jail or betray my principles," she wrote. "The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct."
"A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated," Meltzer-Cohen told The Sparrow Project Monday. "The only permissible purpose for confinement under the civil contempt statute is to attempt to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena, or ‘purge' their contempt. If it is no longer possible to purge the contempt, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is un-coercible, then confinement has been transformed from coercive into punitive, in violation of the law."
"Many judges have complained of the ‘perversity' of this law: that a witness may win their freedom by persisting in their contempt of court," Meltzer-Cohen said, noting that US District Judge Claude M. Hilton must agree that Manning will never testify before she can be released.
Sparrow noted that the court had received letters of support from Manning's friends, family, colleagues and representatives from civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of which stated that "Chelsea is a person of great moral courage, who will not be swayed into betraying her principles, even in the face of great hardship."
"That her confinement has already been so arduous gives credence to her claim that she will endure great hardship rather than agree to cooperate," Metzler-Cohen said.
ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, who once represented Manning, wrote, "The constant in Ms. Manning's life is her unwavering commitment to her principles. I am certain that no punishment could coerce her to violate those principles."
Manning was imprisoned between 2010 and 2017, having been sentenced in 2013 to 35 years. However, as US President Barack Obama left office in January 2017, he commuted Manning's sentence to seven years in detention, resulting in her release that May.
Manning first sought release in early April, when she argued that Judge Hilton hadn't followed proper procedure in deciding to jail her in contempt of court, since he never attempted to refute her arguments before deciding they were invalid, as he is required to do, Sputnik reported. Manning also argued at that time that her jailing had become punitive, since she would never be compelled to testify. That request was unanimously rejected by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia.