A bit of news from the trial
It’s the sixth week of Bradley Manning’s trial and while the prosecution case was spread over several weeks with dozens of witnesses, the defence wrapped up its case in just three days this week, finishing Wednesday and calling only ten witnesses. Many witnesses the defence had wanted to call were refused and all reference to Bradley’s motivation was banned from this ‘merits’ part of the hearing. Motivation will only be considered in the sentencing portion of the trial.
To try and prove the most serious charge, the prosecution has sought to show that Bradley knowingly ‘aided the enemy’ (Al Qaeda) when he passed documents to WikiLeaks, an organisation portrayed by the government as irresponsible and cavalier. The defence has roundly rejected this interpretation.
On Monday and Tuesday, one of the defence witnesses was retired Colonel Morris Davis who in 2007 resigned as the chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo. He gave evidence about the information contained in the leaked Guantánamo ‘detainee assessment briefs’, showing that almost all of it was already in the public domain and that there was no harm caused by the release of these documents, which would not have been of any assistance to Al Qaeda.
The defence case culminated in the powerful testimony of Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler on Wednesday who gave an eloquent explanation (much of it under cross-examination) about how WikiLeaks should be seen as a valid news outlet and why its activities may accurately be described as journalism. Earlier, defence attorney David Coombs had explained to the court that “anyone looking at WikiLeaks prior to the charge releases… would have viewed WikiLeaks as a legitimate news organization.” That of course includes Bradley Manning. Benkler’s research demonstrates that it was the government’s reaction to the WikiLeaks disclosures and its subsequent depiction of WikiLeaks as the enemy rather than the disclosures themselves that prompted Al Qaeda to take an interest in the organisation.
The defence has also called this week for a number of charges including ‘aiding the enemy’ to be dismissed by the Judge.
If Bradley is found guilty on the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge, fundamental First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press will effectively be removed. Information from whistleblowers exposing wrongdoing is likely to diminish and the inclination of news sites to publish any such information may be severely curtailed as potential whistleblowers stay silent and news outlets self-censor through fear of repercussions. However, the Edward Snowden NSA revelations and subsequent leaks should perhaps give us hope that no amount of repression will guarantee silence and truth will eventually out regardless of the consequences for the brave folk who dare to speak it.
Back in Wrexham: support on the streets
In a collaboration between supporters from Wrexham and Peterborough (Dave, Genny and Gill), we were back in Queens Square in Wrexham on Wednesday afternoon speaking to passers by about the case, distributing information, letting people know about Bradley’s Welsh connections and encouraging them to send letters and cards of support. Many people stopped to take information, to ask more about the case and promised to write.
We need more support and solidarity actions everywhere. It doesn’t take much to do a bit of awareness raising wherever you are. Even something as simple as having a badge, sticker, t-shirt or poster and a few leaflets ready to hand out gives you the opportunity to raise Brad’s profile.
Anyone who wishes to directly support Bradley Manning can send a letter or card to him c/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Avenue #41, Oakland, CA 94610, USA or make a donation to his defence fund here.
More photos from recent solidarity in Wrexham and elsewhere are in this flickr set.
International Day of Action: Saturday 27 July
The Bradley Manning Support Network has called an International Day of Action for 27 July. They say:
Please join us in what will likely be the last internationally coordinated show of support for Bradley before military judge Col. Denise Lind reads her final verdict–which we expect some time in August. The July 27 “International Day of Action” coincides with the anticipated sentencing phase of Bradley’s trial. The outcome of that phase of the trial will result in Bradley receiving any outcome from time served to life in prison.
Think about what you can do in your local community to support Bradley Manning on 27 July. Send us a brief report and photos so we can share this with others. Let Brad (and the US government) know that he has supporters everywhere.