Manning ruling ‘A victory for democracy’

A US military court sentenced Bradley Manning, who has expressed a wish to live as a woman and be known as Chelsea, to 35 years in prison on Wednesday. In our media round-up, The Local looks at how the German press reacted.

Manning ruling 'A victory for democracy'
Photo: DPA

Manning, 25, announced on Thursday through her lawyer that she will undergo hormone therapy to become a woman and wishes to be called Chelsea Manning. The former army-anaylst wishes to be referred to as “she” rather than “he”, the lawyer said.

After handing over a huge amount of classified military and diplomatic information to whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Manning was convicted of violating the espionage act. She was, however, acquitted of aiding the enemy – which would have seen her given a much heftier sentence.

The German papers have been following both the Manning and, more recently, the Edward Snowden case, with a critical eye. As a nation waving the flag for data protection, the German press generally covered the sentence in terms of the effect it will have on the world’s press.

Heavyweight daily the Süddeutsche Zeitung called the ruling, “above all, a call on the media and its informers to be more careful.” The newspaper slammed the attempt to have Manning sentenced for aiding the enemy as “absurd”, and said that should Judge Denise Lind have ruled guilty, “investigative journalism would have taken a deadly blow”.

“It would have meant that every journalist who puts out secret information could potentially face being charged with treason and aiding the enemy. This is punishable by death in America,” it said.

Over at the Berliner Zeitung emphasis was laid on the effect of Manning’s, and Snowden’s, leaks. It called their revelations “the best possible examples of how breaching secrecy could be beneficial.” Manning leaking videos of US soldiers shooting at civilians from helicopters “triggered a huge new debate about why war efforts are being made and morals in the US army,” it said.

In Munich, regional paper the Münchner Merkur wrote that sentencing Manning to such a long time behind bars was a deterrent to others who have secrets, not to pass them on.

With David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport and the British newspaper the Guardian being ordered to smash hard drives with private data on, the paper argued that the ruling was not just a deterrent to army officials, but to journalists too.

It argued: “On what grounds can Obama and Cameron push for human rights and freedom in China, Russia and North Korea when they themselves are pushing the boundaries?”

Regional paper the Badische Zeitung took somewhat of a more hardline approach to Manning’s military betrayal. Thirty five years behind bars was “a victory for democracy,” it said. The leader writer hailed judge Lind as being “courageous in her attempt to pave the way for the government to set an example.”

For the Stuttgarter Zeitung the fact that the punishment was more lenient than prosecutors had wanted, was “a signal to all whistleblowers that even if they do start important debates about the sense of war and the work of secret services, 35 years instead of 60 in prison is not a blessing.”

DPA/The Local/jcw

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German MPs protest Assange’s arrest outside London prison

Two far-left German MPs, Heike Hansel and Sevim Dagdelen of Die Linke had been due to meet their "friend" Assange in London's Ecuadoran embassy later on Monday. But they were in for a surprise.

German MPs protest Assange's arrest outside London prison
Sevim Dagdelen (Die Linke) standing outside of Belmarsh prison on Monday. Photo: DPA

Instead, following his expulsion and arrest last week, they protested outside the top-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London where he is being held, carrying placards demanding his release.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

SEE ALSO: German MP visits Assange in embassy

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador revoked his asylum, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

EU 'must take action'

Dagdelen urged Britain and the EU to block any extradition request.

“We call on the British government not to extradite Julian Assange to the USA.

“The European Union must take action to protect a politically-persecuted publisher and journalist,” said the German politician, calling on Spain and her home country to grant Assange asylum.

SEE ALSO: Assange: US marine spied on me in Berlin

Dagdelen said they were trying to see Assange in prison, but their application was “still pending”.

“I'm a friend of Julian Assange. He's a son, a father, a brother and a good friend,” said Dagdelen.

“His whole life he sacrificed for the truth.”

They also accused the Ecuadoran government of “engaging in a disinformation and slander campaign against Assange” after a series of reports emerged detailing his increasingly disfunctional relationship with embassy staff.

Belmarsh has frequently been used in high-profile national security cases, including that of former Finsbury Park Mosque hate preacher Abu Hamza, who now resides in a US “supermax” prison following extradition.

Radical cleric Anjem Choudary, who was convicted in 2016 of encouraging support for the Islamic State group, spent some of his sentence there.

Belmarsh earned the moniker “the UK's Guantanamo Bay” in the period following the 9/11 attacks after it was used to detain a number of people under anti-terror laws.