FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army private accused of sending reams of classified U.S. documents to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks was kept in tight pretrial confinement partly because another prisoner had recently committed suicide, the former security chief at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps base testified Wednesday.
Marine Col. Robert Oltman appeared as a witness on the second day of an expected six-day pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is seeking dismissal of all charges, claiming his confinement in the Quantico brig amounted to illegal punishment.
Oltman and others have testified that psychiatrists who examined Manning at Quantico repeatedly recommended that his conditions be eased. But Oltman said he was skeptical about at least one of those recommendations because another detainee had killed himself in December 2009 after his custody status was reduced based on the advice of the same doctor, Navy Capt. William Hochter, the psychiatrist assigned to the brig.
Manning was held at Quantico for nine months, from July 2010 to April 2011, when he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Throughout his time at Quantico, he was locked up alone for at least 23 hours a day, forced to sleep naked for several nights and required to stand naked at attention one morning, his lawyers assert.
Manning, 24, is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks while he was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He faces possible life imprisonment if convicted of aiding the enemy, the most serious of the 22 charges against him.
Assange said to be ailing: Ecuador's ambassador to Britain, Ana Alban, said Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has developed a chronic lung infection and requires constant medical attention at his refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Assange took refuge in the embassy June 19 after unsuccessfully fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden for questioning on sexual assault charges filed by two women. Ecuador later granted him asylum.
Alban says Ecuador is covering Assange's medical costs and continues to seek his safe passage out of Britain. British authorities have refused.