UK

WikiLeaks: Uncle Of Bradley Manning Slams Jail Sentence

21/08/2013 18:45 BST

The shell-shocked uncle of jailed US soldier Bradley Manning has insisted his nephew is a hero and should not have been locked up in the first place.

Private Manning has been jailed for 35 years after giving hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic secrets to the WikiLeaks website.

bradley manning

Bradley Manning faces 34 years in prison

The closely watched case has seen the 25-year-old called both a whistleblower and a traitor.

His mother and other relatives in Wales, where the US soldier spent his teenage years, were handed a small crumb of comfort after a military judge rejected prosecution calls to jail him for 60 years - arguing that it would dissuade other soldiers from following in his footsteps.

Following the verdict, Manning's uncle, Kevin Fox, said he had mixed feelings about his nephew's sentencing.

He told BBC Wales: "It was less time than I thought - that's got to be a good thing.

"I hope it will be reduced (in the future).

"But to be honest, he shouldn't have been given any time at all.

"In my eyes he is a hero."

As an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to a large amount of very sensitive information, despite his junior rank and was deployed to Iraq in 2009.

He leaked more than 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic messages in 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

He was convicted last month of 20 offences, including six Espionage Act violations, five theft counts and computer fraud. Prosecutors were unable to prove that he aided the enemy, a crime punishable by life in prison.

Manning has apologised and said he wanted to provoke a debate on the country's military and diplomatic actions. "I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people," he said last week.

But prosecutors said the leaks endangered the lives of US intelligence sources and prompted several ambassadors to be recalled, reassigned or expelled.

And they also requested a far longer prison term than other soldiers have received in recent decades for sharing government secrets.

However, a military psychiatrist later testified that Manning had struggled with his gender identity and wanted to become a woman at the time of the leak.

Also according to evidence presented by the defence, military supervisors ignored Manning's erratic behaviour, which included trying to grab a gun during a counselling session.

Although Manning has been sentenced to 35 years he could be eligible for parole in about 11 years.

On Twitter, WikiLeaks called the sentence a "significant strategic victory".

However, other support groups were less optimistic.

The Index on Censorship said it condemned the 35-year sentence handed out to Manning.

Chief executive Kirsty Hughes said: "Sadly this sentence continues the mistreatment that Bradley Manning has experienced at the hands of the US government.

"Index strongly condemns the sentence and asks that this be reconsidered by the appropriate judicial authorities. Making an example of Manning in this way tells all whistleblowers that they will not be protected for exposing the worst abuses of power."

That view was also shared by human rights group Article 19.

Its executive director Agnes Callamard said: "President Obama can and should pardon Bradley Manning. America champions international standards on free speech, freedom of information and transparency abroad. Now it's time to see them applying those principles at home."