Civilian lawyer calls for dismissal of all charges against soldier, who has been in held military custody for more than two years
By the time Bradley Manning goes to trial next February for the alleged transmission of state secrets to WikiLeaks he will has spent as much time in military custody as it would take to build the Empire State building twice over, his lawyer has protested.
David Coombs, Manning’s civilian lawyer, has filed a motion with the army court hearing the US soldier’s court martial calling for all charges against him to be dismissed on grounds that his right to a speedy trial have been violated. The US government has been so lethargic in pursuing the case, Coombs argues, that it has made “an absolute mockery of [Manning's] fundamental right”.
Manning was arrested at forward operating base Hammer outside Baghdad on 27 May 2010 on suspicion of being the source of the biggest leak of confidential state documents in US history. He faces 22 charges relating to the transferral of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, videos and war logs to the whistleblowing website.
Under the US military rule book, a soldier must be arraigned and his trial officially started within 120 days of him being put into captivity. Yet in an exhaustive 117-page motion that Manning has been so far spent 845 days in pretrial confinement “and still has not had his day in court”.
Should the trial kick off on 4 February next year, as it is currently scheduled to do, he will have been held for 983 days. “The Empire State building could have been constructed almost two-and-a-half times over in the amount of time it will have taken to bring PFC Manning to trial,” Coombs writes.
Manning’s right to a speedy trial is enshrined in the sixth amendment of the US constitution, the military rule book and article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That article states that “the government must move diligently to trial and the entire period up to trying the accused will be reviewed for reasonable diligence”.
Manning’s military prosecutors have argued that they have not breached the soldier’s rights because they applied for, and were granted by the convening authority, permission to exclude periods of time from the 120-day speedy trial clock. Coombs protests that many of the delays were unexplained and inappropriate.
He accuses the government of dragging its feet, pointing to numerous periods of apparent prosecutorial inactivity in processing the case. In total, Coombs counts 327 days of delays that have been excluded from the speedy trial clock without any reasonable explanation.
He accuses the army of having “trampled upon PFC Manning’s rights” and calls for the court to dismiss all charges with prejudice for lack of a speedy trial.