Since spring 2010, Pfc. Bradley Manning has been detained by the U.S. government on suspicion of leaking state secrets. His attorney now argues that the conditions of his detainment constitute punishment before trial, The Guardian reports.

Those conditions include being held in a 6-by-8-foot cell for 23 to 24 hours a day and being forbidden to lie down or use a wall to support his back while seated. Manning’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs, alleges that the Army’s behavior constitutes a “flagrant violation” of the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

If a judge agrees with Coombs, two things could happen: Either any sentence Manning receives could be reduced in proportion to the severity of his pretrial punishment or the 22 charges leveled against him could be dropped altogether.

According to Manning’s defense, during the nine months that he spent at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia after his arrest in May 2010:

“Manning was awoken at 0500 hours and required to remain awake in his cell from 0500 to 2200 hours,” Coombs claims in the motion, adding that he “was not permitted to lie down on his rack during the duty day. Nor was Manning permitted to lean his back against the cell wall; he had to sit upright on his rack without any back support”.

Furthermore, the motion states that Manning was allowed only 20 minutes of sunshine a day and no more than five minutes in a shower and that shackles with metal leg and hand restraints were placed on him whenever he was outside of his cell.

The U.S. military claims the conditions were imposed under a “prevention of injury” order for Manning’s protection. Coombs counters that there is no evidence justifying the use of so-called prevention measures, and that fact, he argues, shows that Manning was being punished.

Coombs cites an incident in which Manning was forced to strip for an inspection after he remonstrated over his treatment at the detention centre. “It is well established that forced nudity is a classic humiliation technique. The only permissible inference is that the Brig intended to punish Manning by subjecting him to humiliating treatment because Manning correctly pointed out the absurdity of his POI status,” it is claimed.

Manning’s alleged disclosure included hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world, including the war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq that caused a media furor at the time of their release. Since his capture, Manning has had no choice but to remain in government custody. But as a member of the United States military, he knew when he passed classified information along to the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks that he was risking the loss of the freedoms that are being invoked by politicians during the 2012 election season. For continuing to pay the price for that decision, we honor him as our Truthdigger of the Week.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly. Follow him on Twitter: @areedkelly.

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