WASHINGTON, August 21 (RIA Novosti) – A US military judge sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison Wednesday for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. He was also given a dishonorable discharge from the military.
Manning, 25, has admitted to leaking the classified material, the largest amount of such information leaked in US history, including thousands of war logs about US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while he worked as an intelligence analyst at a forward operating base in Iraq.
Included in the 700,000 files leaked by Manning was a video of a 2007 US helicopter attack in Baghdad that reportedly killed a dozen civilians including a Reuters cameraman and his driver.
“I’m sorry I hurt people. I’m sorry that I hurt the United States,” Manning told military judge Col. Denise Lind last week during the sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“I’m apologizing for the unintended consequences of my actions. I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people,” he said.
Lind last month found Manning not guilty of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which could have carried a sentence of life in prison.
He was convicted of multiple counts of espionage as well as theft and computer fraud connected to leaking volumes of classified US military documents to WikiLeaks, and faced up to 90 years in prison.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 60 years.
“This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information,” said military prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow. “National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously.”
“The defense requests a sentence that allows him to have a life,” Defense attorney David Combs told the judge on Monday, asking for no more than 25 years behind bars.
Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, and was held at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia, near Washington, where his attorneys say he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment including humiliating nightly strip searches and withholding of possessions.
“I know I can and will be a better person,” Manning told the court last week.
“I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person and that I can return to a productive place in society,” he said.
Russia, which has given temporary asylum to another US intelligence leaker, Edward Snowden, criticized the Manning sentence as “harsh.”
"American officials can often be heard criticizing court rulings in other countries with regard to alleged infringement on the freedom of speech, assembly and other civil rights. However, when US interests are at stake, as was the case with Bradley Manning, the American justice system adopts unjustifiably harsh decisions ... without any regard for human rights," the Russian foreign ministry's human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Such a display of double standards in regard to the prevalence of justice and human rights once again undermines the United States' claim of being ‘a leader’ in these important areas,” Dolgov said.
US Military prisoners must serve at least one-third of their prison term before they are eligible for parole. Manning will get credit for more than three years of pretrial confinement.
Updated with quotes from Konstantin Dolgov.