US President Barack Obama has commuted military whistleblower and Wikileaks source Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, marking the most notable commutation of his administration.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after exposing potential war crimes and human rights abuses in the USA’s war with Iraq.
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Arguably the most high-profile leak was ‘Collateral Murder’, being video footage of US Apache helicopter pilots gunning down war correspondents and other civilians.
Manning’s appellate lawyers Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward welcomed the news of her commutation.
“Ms Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States,” the two said in a statement published by Wikileaks.
“Her 35 year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”
Obama’s commutation means that Manning will now be released on 17 May.
VICTORY: Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence from 35 years to 7. Release date now May 17. Background: https://t.co/HndsbVbRer
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
Manning is one of over 200 people who have been granted a commutation by Obama this week.
“Today, 273 individuals learned that the President has given them a second chance. With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1385 individuals — the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history,” the White House said in a statement.
The White House added that clemency was “an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the President has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance”.
The treatment of Chelsea Manning came under scrutiny, as she attempted suicide and was placed in solitary confinement
Nevertheless, Amnesty International has called the move a “long overdue” step.
“Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement.
“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
Amnesty called on the USA to bring the people implicated in the leaks to justice, saying it could send a “strong signal to the world” that it’s serious about investigating human rights violations.
Featured image: US Army via Wikipedia