Board member says donation is "vital"

A legal defense fund for the US soldier suspected of leaking secret US documents to WikiLeaks said Thursday it has received a $15,000 contribution from the website.

US Army private Bradley Manning, 23, has been held in a military brig in Virginia since July on suspicion of leaking secret US militarydocuments and State Department cables to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly said it does not know whether Manning was the source of the documents but has pledged to help with his defense.

The Bradley Manning Support Network said in a statement on Thursday published at that WikiLeaks had transferred 15,100 dollars on Monday to the legal trust account of Manning's attorney.

"In light of WikiLeaks' current fiscal challenges -- due in large part to the shameful actions of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal in cutting off services to WikiLeaks at the behest of the US government -- the Bradley Manning Support Network commends WikiLeaks for their contribution at this time," it said.

"This donation from WikiLeaks is vital to our efforts to ensure Bradley receives a fair, open trial," said Support Fund founder and steering committee member Mike Gogulski.

The group said the WikiLeaks contribution brings the total funds raised and transferred to Bradley's civilian legal defense team to over 100,000 dollars, just short of the 115,000 dollars needed "to mount a vigorous defense."

"We have seen an enormous outpouring of support internationally, in donations as well as volunteers," said Jeff Paterson, another steering committee member for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

"Internationally, people are speaking out against the unjust imprisonment of Bradley Manning, who is for all intents accused of acting out of moral conviction," Paterson said.

Manning, who worked as a low-ranking army intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested in May and later transferred to the US Marine Corpsbase at Quantico in Virginia.

US authorities have yet to say when he will be put on trial on charges of violating federal criminal and military law, including transmitting classified information to a third party.

If found guilty, Manning faces up to 52 years in prison.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Thursday that he believes the United States is trying to use Manning to build a case against him, but denied ever having heard of the soldier before his name appeared in media reports.

"Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step," Assange said. "The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States."