World

WikiLeaks source's jail term reduced

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has vowed to accept extradition to the US if Chelsea Manning is released

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the biggest such breach in United States history.

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning's commutation and renewed US government concern about WikiLeaks' actions during last year's presidential election, or a promise by founder Julian Assange to accept extradition if she was freed.

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks - a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison, Reuters reported.

Mr Obama reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.

"This is just outrageous," House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Mr Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a "dangerous precedent" for those who leak materials about national security.

He said: "Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets."

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton said the leak endangered troops, intelligence officers, diplomats and allies.

"We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr," he added.

Manning, formerly known as US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman.

The White House said her sentence will end on May 17 this year.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's London embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for the investigation of allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape there in 2010.

He said he fears Sweden will extradite him to the US, where there is an open criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks sent a tweet quoting Assange's attorney, Ms Melinda Taylor, saying he will abide by his promise to accept extradition if Manning was freed.

"Everything that he has said he's standing by," Ms Taylor said, according to the tweet.

Civil rights groups praised the move, calling it overdue.

"Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years," said Ms Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Assange welcomed the decision while calling for an end to a "war on whistle-blowers".

"I welcome President Obama's decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning from 35 years to time served," he said in a statement sent to AFP by one of his lawyers. 
- WIRE SERVICES

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