(LONDON) — In the wake of U.S Army Private Bradley Manning’s conviction Tuesday for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents, Julian Assange, the man whose organization, WikiLeaks, released the classified documents, said the trial “was never fair.”
In comments made at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange is being sheltered to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges brought by two women, he said the verdict “is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”
“It is a shortsighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and it must be reversed,” said Assange.
Manning had already pleaded guilty to 10 of the less serious of the 22 charges in a deal that at the time would’ve gotten him an expected 20 years in prison. On Tuesday, a military judge announced the court’s finding on the rest of the charges, a majority of them guilty verdicts for espionage, theft and fraud.
Manning did not testify during the nearly two-month court-martial.
Manning did manage to avoid the charge of aiding the enemy, which could have carried with it a life sentence.
The court-martial began three years after Manning, now 25, was first detained in Iraq for suspicion of having leaked the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed several Iraqi civilians. He was subsequently charged in relation to the November 2010 leak of nearly three-quarter million classified or confidential documents. The release of the documents has been described as the most extensive leak of classified information in U.S. history.
Prosecutors had argued that Manning knew the material he leaked would be seen by al Qaeda, and thus he had a “general evil intent” behind his actions.
Legal experts had said that if Manning was convicted of aiding the enemy, it would have set a precedent because he didn’t directly give the classified material to al Qaeda.
Despite that finding, Manning could still face 136 years in prison for the other convictions, according to a legal expert briefing reporters on the scene. The sentencing phase of Manning’s court-martial begins Wednesday at Fort Meade, Md.
Following the hearing, Manning’s family released a statement to The Guardian newspaper, saying they are “obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, [but] are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way.”
“Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform,” the family said, according to The Guardian.
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