14:10 GMT23 September 2020
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    Whistleblower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning may not be allowed into Australia, her PR manager has announced, due to immigration rules barring individuals with criminal records.

    Manning, a former US intelligence analyst, is scheduled to speak at a handful of locations in southern Australia as well as neighboring New Zealand from September 7-11, among them the Sydney Opera House, but her PR manager, Think Inc., was notified by the Australian government of its intention to deny Manning entry.

    The objection arises from Manning's history as a leaker of classified documents, for which she was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 and released in 2017. However, since former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence instead of pardoning her, the charges remain on her record, the Sydney Morning Herald explained.

    Australia's Migration Act of 1958 bars people from entering the country who have a "substantial criminal record," which may be defined as having been sentenced to more than 12 months' imprisonment, on the grounds that they present a risk to the community, the Herald noted.

    ​It's not the first time Manning has been barred entry by a country for her past. Last September, she was stopped at the Canadian border, although she did subsequently earn entry to the country in May 2018, when she attended the C2 international business conference in Montreal, Sputnik reported.

    In addition, the right-wing opposition in New Zealand is trying to bar her from entry there as well on similar grounds.

    "This is a convicted felon, sentenced to 35 years in jail, coming in here for money. The discretion is not there to apply to a person who expresses virtually no remorse for her offending… There's no rehabilitation, no remorse, the very purpose of her visit to come and talk about her crimes," said Michael Woodhouse, immigration spokesman of the right-wing National Party, Sputnik reported Wednesday.

    Think Inc.'s statement released Thursday indicated Manning intends to fight the imminent ruling, having furnished 10 letters of support from individuals and organizations in support of her entry to Australia.

    "Ms. Manning offers formidable ideas and an insightful perspective which we are hoping to bring to the forefront of Australian dialogue," Think Inc. Director Suzi Jamil said in a statement, AP reported.

    Amnesty International Australia's national director, Claire Mallinson, accused the government of trying to silence Manning, saying in a statement, "By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government."

    Greg Barnes, a lawyer who has in the past represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to whom Manning leaked the stolen US Army documents and diplomatic papers, noted that Australia has let people with criminal records into the country before and that Manning could not seriously be said to present a risk to the national community.

    Australia's Department of Home Affairs told AP that while it doesn't comment on criminal cases, it wouldn't be making an exception for Manning. New Zealand's immigration department said it would rule on granting her a special visa by Friday; otherwise she may be barred from entry there as well.

    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was up to David Coleman, who was sworn in as immigration minister on Tuesday, AP noted.

    Left-wing activists are crying foul over the government's decision, claiming it's discrimination against progressive speakers. Gizmodo noted that in recent years, the Land Down Under has played host to a who's-who of alt-right speakers, including Lauren Southern, Stephen Molyneaux and Milo Yiannopoulos, none of whom have faced difficulty entering the country.

    Gavin McInnes, founder of the extremist group the Proud Boys, has a speaking tour scheduled in Australia in November. Banned from Twitter for hate speech, the organization has also recently hailed Nazi demonstrators in the German city of Chemnitz as "repressed descendants of people who committed and efficient genocide" in a now-deleted Facebook post.

    ​There's no indication at present that McInnes will be barred from the country.


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