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US to transfer WikiLeaks suspect to new prison

April 20, 2011 12:43 IST
Bradley Manning, a United States serviceman suspected of passing classified information to the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, is being transferred to a new prison, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

"The army is transferring Private Manning from the pre-trial confinement facility at Quantico to the new joint regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas," Department Of Defence's General Counsel Jeh Johnson told reporters at a hurriedly convened news conference in Washington.

Although the transfer comes amidst allegation of mistreatment of Manning, the Pentagon officials denied that this was the reason for his transfer to the new prison. Manning, a 23-year-old US army intelligence officer, who allegedly provided the WikiLeaks with a trove of secret documents, has been imprisoned at Quantico since July 2010.

"At this juncture of the case, we have decided that the new joint-regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pre-trial detention," Johnson said. "At the request of Private Manning's defence counsel, an assessment is under way to determine whether the suspect is mentally competent in this case in the event it goes to trial. On Saturday, April 9, the inquiry phase of that process, known in military justice terms as a 706 board, was completed, and Private Manning's presence in the Washington, DC area is no longer necessary for that purpose," he argued.

Manning will return to the Washington area as needed for legal proceedings, as his case remains under the jurisdiction of the US Army's military district of Washington, Johnson said. Responding to allegation of mistreatment of Manning at his present detention center, the Pentagon official said the Department of Defence remains satisfied that his pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects.

Manning's detention conditions, which have included solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and Britain. Amnesty International in February called Manning's detention "harsh and punitive" and urged Britain to intervene on his behalf.

Johnson said the process to move Manning has been on for quite some time now. "We've been thinking about this for a while... at this juncture of the case it was a good thing to transfer him even though the case is going to stay in Washington," he said.


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