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‘Free Chelsea Manning’: Free Speech Advocates Express Solidarity After Suicide Attempt


Chelsea Manning attempted to commit suicide on Wednesday while jailed for her refusal to testify in a controversial federal grand jury proceeding targeting Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks.

“On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Chelsea Manning attempted to take her own life,” her legal defense team said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “She was taken to a hospital and is currently recovering.”

The famous whistleblower and civil liberties advocate has steadfastly refused to participate in the government’s case against Assange—viewing the prosecution of the Australian pro transparency iconoclast as a severe infringement of the First Amendment and basic principles of free speech and expression.

Assange had been investigated on the suspicion of computer crimes for several years following the publication of multiple tranches of embarrassing documents and information about the U.S. government—including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. Assange was publicly indicted in May 2019 on Espionage Act charges.

Manning was ordered to be placed in jail just one week prior to Assange’s indictment for her refusal to testify about the anti-secrecy organization and media outlet.

News of Manning’s attempt to take her own life was instantly met with sadness, grief, and defiance by her supporters.

“This is awful news,” said Defending Rights and Dissent Policy Director Chip Gibbons. “Assange has been indicted, the U.S. is trying to extradite him. There’s no reason, even within the logic of the system, to keep jailing Manning (not that there ever was a reason period). It’s well past time to let her go free.”

“I want to cry but we have to keep fighting,” left-wing writer Naomi LaChance said. “Free Chelsea.”

Various other words of support and anger poured in:

“In spite of those sanctions—which have so far included over a year of so-called ‘coercive’ incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fine—she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse,” Manning’s legal team said. “Ms. Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself.”

“Her actions today evidence the strength of her convictions, as well as the profound harm she continues to suffer as a result of her ‘civil’ confinement—a coercive practice that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently said violates international law,” the statement continued.

Successive U.S. administrations, including that of Barack Obama, have been accused by international human rights observers of violating international law and torturing Manning due to the prolonged use of solitary confinement against her for exacting punishment widely-believed to be punitive and politically-motivated.

Manning’s legal team also shared a portion of a recent open letter in which she expressed her contempt for the grand jury to U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga.

“I object to this grand jury . . . as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good,” Manning wrote. “I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them. For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.”

[Image via Jack Taylor/Getty Images.]

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