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AOC calls for Chelsea Manning’s release: “Solitary confinement is torture”

Manning's supporters say she's been in solitary confinement for 26 days after refusing to testify before a grand jury.

by Rex Santus
Apr 2 2019, 6:38pm

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling for the release of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who's been in solitary confinement for 26 days after refusing to testify before a grand jury, according to her supporters.

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez said Manning’s current imprisonment was “torture” and that the former Army intelligence analyst should be released on bail. Ocasio-Cortez also asserted that the U.S. should ban extended solitary confinement.

Ocasio-Cortez is perhaps the most prominent American official to come forward in Manning’s defense since she was jailed last month. Manning refused to comply with a grand jury subpoena regarding WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, whom the U.S. had secretly charged with an unknown offense last year.

Manning’s support committee says she’s been held in “administrative segregation” since March 8. She’s expected to remain there for the duration of the grand jury, despite her legal team’s repeated attempts to persuade a judge to release her.

“Chelsea can’t be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, or visit the law library, and has no access to books or reading material. She has not been outside for 16 days. She is permitted to make phone calls and move about outside her cell between 1 and 3 a.m.,” Manning’s support committee said in a statement March 23.

The sheriff of the Alexandria, Virginia, facility where Manning is being held has denied that she’s in solitary.

The grand jury subpoenaed Manning in early March, but she said she would not comply with its questioning because she had already answered everything she knew about her leaks to WikiLeaks at a 2013 court martial. But prosecutors say they have reason to believe Manning’s 2013 testimony may have been inaccurate.

Manning and her lawyers say that the whistleblower has been the target of unlawful surveillance since her release in 2017.

"I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” Manning said in a written statement in early March. "Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly stated ethical objections to the grand jury system."

As one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence after she had served just seven years. Manning was convicted on numerous espionage charges after she leaked a cache of military documents to WikiLeaks, including a video that showed a 2007 U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed dozens, in 2010. The attack also killed two Reuters journalists.

Cover image: From left, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., are seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building to discuss preparations for the 2020 Census and citizenship questions on Thursday March 14, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)