President Barack Obama has commuted the jail sentence of Chelsea Manning, who is to be freed from jail in May.
The soldier was branded a traitor for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning, who is serving a sentence at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, has served seven years of her 35-year sentence.
The commuted sentence will allow Manning to be freed on May 17 of this year.
The 29-year-old confessed to sending the secret military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy organization, but was hailed a whistleblower and hero by some.
The former intelligence analyst was convicted in August 2013 of espionage and other offences for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents while working in Iraq.
Manning has also been on a hunger strike in a bid for gender reassignment surgery.
The army private formerly known as Bradley Manning, began receiving hormone treatment for gender reassignment while in prison in 2015. She changed her legal name in April 2014.
A source within the Justice Department told NBC News that Manning’s commutation was on Obama’s short list before it was announced.
Obama also commuted the sentence of 209 other individuals on Tuesday, and pardoned 64 others, according to a White House press release.
But US House Speaker Paul Ryan led the chorus of disapproval from top Republicans:
“This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
In November, Manning asked to have her sentence reduced for time served.
“I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction,” she wrote in a statement provided to The New York Times. “I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever. The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.”
Wikileaks’ Julian Assange announced in a tweet posted to Wikileaks last week that he would agree to U.S. extradition if Manning was released.
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning, said in a statement: “I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence.
“This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Manning’s release for several years, applauded Obama’s decision but stressed that there is still work to be done.
“Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years,” Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said 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.”