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Protesters Support Soldier Ahead of WikiLeaks Court-Martial

by VOA News June 01, 2013

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a U.S. army base Saturday to voice support for Private First Class Bradley Manning, whose court-martial begins there Monday for the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.

Manning is accused of passing more than 700,000 government and military files to the website WikiLeaks. The material, which was widely disseminated, included videos of airstrikes that killed civilians, diplomatic cables and military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has admitted leaking the documents, saying he he wanted to provoke a public debate over U.S. foreign and military policy.

Manning faces 22 charges, including a military charge of aiding the enemy, which could send him to prison for life without parole. He also is charged with violating the Espionage Act, a 1917 law created to try spies and traitors, which carries severe penalties.

Since his arrest in Iraq in 2010, Manning has become a polarizing figure. Supporters see him as a heroic whistleblower; critics view him as a traitor who harmed the nation and put lives at risk.

Among the protesters Saturday was Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers.

The court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 30 miles northeast of Washington, is expected to run until at least late August. Prosecutors have said they expect to call more than 100 witnesses.

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