For the second night in a row Thursday, a US soldier accused of leaking secrets cables to WikiLeaks was stripped naked for up to seven hours, according to his lawyer.
“PFC Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell again last night,” Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, wrote on his blog.
“As with the previous evening, Quantico Brig guards required him to surrender all of his clothing. PFC Manning then walked back to his bed, and spent the next seven hours in humiliation.”
“According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was ‘not punitive’ and done in accordance with Brig rules,” he added.
“There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning. This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored — both by direct observation and by video — at all times.”
Brig officials notified defense lawyers that mental health providers were not consulted in deciding to strip manning of his clothes.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification. It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated,” Coombs said. “No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.”
Manning’s supporters, defense lawyers and rights groups have protested the conditions of his detention and argued that the maximum security regimen he faces amounts to inhumane treatment of a man who has yet to be convicted of a crime.
On Wednesday, the government denied Manning’s Article 138 request that he be removed from Maximum custody. The defense now has ten days to file a rebuttal.
Under the “prevention of injury” watch, guards check on Manning “every five minutes by asking him if he is okay” and wake him at night if they cannot see him clearly, according to Coombs.
The lawyer has said mental health specialists at the prison have advised prison authorities to lift the special watch.
Manning has been held at the prison since July under a maximum security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.
The army private faces numerous charges for stealing classified files and is suspected as the source of a massive trove of classified documents published on the WikiLeaks website in recent months, infuriating and embarrassing US officials.
The Pentagon earlier rejected allegations of harsh conditions and said Manning received treatment similar to others under the high-security regime.
“There’s 30 people on a U-shaped corridor, so he’s not in a hole. He’s not away from others. He’s allowed to have conversations with others on that corridor,” press secretary Geoff Morrell told MSNBC after he paid a visit to the site himself.
“He’s not being treated differently than any other maximum security detainee and not differently really that much from the medium security detainees.”
US military authorities brought additional charges against Manning on Wednesday, accusing him of illegally downloading vast numbers of secret government files and “aiding the enemy,” a charge that could carry the death penalty if convicted.
This video is from Democracy Now!, broadcast March 4, 2011.
— with AFP