14:37 GMT28 May 2020
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    A lawyer for jailed whistleblower Chelsea Manning has moved to block her client’s appearance before a Virginia grand jury next week, arguing it “serves no legal or rational purpose” given Manning’s demonstrated “incoercibility.” She is already due in court later next week.

    “I have been advised by Assistant United States Attorney Godron Kromberg that the government intends to have Ms. Manning transported to appear again before the Grand Jury on March 10, prior to our scheduled hearing,” Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Manning’s legal representative, said in a March 3 filing.

    “She has already twice refused to give testimony and has twice been found in contempt. She has made it quite clear that she will not be convinced to give testimony and betray her principles, and the pending motion more than reiterates those principles. She is willing to repeat those convictions, and her refusal to testify, at the hearing on the 13th,” Meltzer-Cohen noted.

    ​“Another appearance at the Grand Jury would be a waste of the Grand Jury’s time, and a waste of the security and support personnel resources involved in arranging such an appearance,” the attorney noted. “Accordingly, I move this Court to direct the government not to produce Ms. Manning to the Grand Jury on March 10. The issue of Ms. Manning’s incoercibility is the proper subject of inquiry by you, and will surely occur in open court on March 13.”

    On February 19, Manning’s lawyers filed a new motion for her release from the Alexandria Detention Center, where she has been held in contempt of a federal grand jury since March  2019. Manning refused to answer questions about Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, which Manning used in 2010 to publish stolen US government documents proving that US troops committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the US government covered up. Having already testified extensively about this during her 2013 court-martial by the US Army, Manning refused to do so again, believing it to be attempted entrapment.

    'The Witness is Incoercible’

    Assange was arrested in London in April of last year by British police for having skipped bail during a sexual assault investigation in 2013. However, the US government then revealed 18 charges against the journalist, including under the 1917 Espionage Act, associated with his having helped Manning publish the stolen files. His extradition hearing began last week.

    Shadowproof journalist Kevin Gosztola, who covered the proceedings in the London courtroom last week, noted that Manning’s noncompliance with the grand jury has created “a major hurdle” for prosecutors, who have been forced to rely on a 2013 statement by Manning that refutes their central claims about the timeline of events surrounding the leaks.

    In May, a new grand jury convened and summoned her once more, and when she remained intransigent, US District Court Judge Anthony Trenga hit her with stiff financial penalties for her continued lack of cooperation. As of March 5, her fines have reached $249,000, and if she remains uncooperative until the grand jury’s session ends later this year, those fines could top $441,000.

    “A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated. The only permissible purpose for sanctions under the civil contempt statute is to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena,” Meltzer-Cohen said in a press release at the time. “If compliance is impossible, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is incoercible, then confinement has been transformed from a coercive into a punitive sanction, and thus is in violation of the law.”

    Widespread support for Manning has poured in from all corners of the globe, with a petition for her release gaining the signatures of more than 62,000 activists, journalists and concerned citizens, and Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, writing a letter to the US government on behalf of Manning, advocating an end to the “open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture” to which she has been subjected, and calling for her release. Activists have also demonstrated outside the Virginia jail where she is being kept.

    Related:

    'Outrage' Over Judge's Refusal To Allow Assange to Sit With His Lawyers During Extradition Hearings
    UK Police and Ambulance Respond to 'Minor Incident' at Belmarsh Prison, Where Assange is Being Held
    ‘Same Web of Corruption’: Pro-Assange Protesters Rally Outside Jail Holding Manning, Hammond
    Tags:
    Julian Assange, punishment, subpoena, court filing, grand jury, Chelsea Manning
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