US soldier arrested on suspicion of releasing files to WikiLeaks says he is suffering punitive, unlawful treatment.
Bradley Manning, the US soldier being held in military prison on suspicion of having released state secrets to WikiLeaks, has spoken out about the conditions he is enduring at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia. In an 11-page legal letter released by his lawyer, David Coombs, Manning describes what he claims is punitive and unlawful treatment.
He describes being placed on suicide watch for three days from 18 January:
I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.
He also talks about the ongoing practice of being stripped naked every night and made to stand nude for parade:
The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder-width apart. I stood at parade rest for about three minutes . . . The [brig supervisor] and the other guards walked past my cell. He looked at me, paused for a moment, then continued to the next cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked.
The legal letter, addressed to the US military authorities, was drawn up in response to the recent decision to keep Manning on a restriction order called Prevention of Injury (PoI). This means that he is kept in his cell alone for 23 hours a day and checked every five minutes by guards. This is despite the fact that none of his psychological evaluations has suggested he has suicidal tendencies or any inclination to harm himself.
Observation records consistently describe Manning as "respectful, courteous and well spoken".
Time magazine quotes a Marine Corps spokesman, First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, saying that officials made an "event-driven" decision to order Manning's night-time nudity. He declined to provide details, citing Manning's privacy.
Earlier this month, my colleague Sophie Elmhirst interviewed David House, the only person to visit Manning in prison apart from his lawyer, who gave some insight into the harsh conditions he faces:
I can't really describe how bizarre it is to see a 110-pound, five-foot-three individual done up in chains from his hands to his feet, connected at the waist, so he can't really move.
House also pointed out that officials' claim that Manning is held in the same conditions as other "maximum-custody" prisoners is meaningless, as he is the only maximum-custody detainee at Quantico.
The UN is launching an inquiry into whether the conditions amount to torture.