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Lawyer wants WikiLeaker kept off suicide watch

Abuse of discretion alleged

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The attorney for accused WikiLeaker Pfc. Bradley Manning has petitioned his client's living conditions, which require him to be watched around the clock and forbid him from exercising except for one 30-minute period each day.

The complaint was filed on Wednesday with the commander at the Quantico base, where Manning has been held since July under suicide watch and POI – prevention of injury – designations. The Article 138 complaint argues that there is no basis for Manning, who allegedly turned over hundreds of thousands of secret US documents to WikiLeaks, to be considered a threat to himself.

Attorney David C. Coombs concedes that forensic psychologists have on several occasions recommended that his client be put under suicide or POI watch, with the last one, for POI, coming in December. The following week, a psychologist recommended that Manning be taken off POI watch, but so far that hasn't happened.

As Coombs describes it:

Life for PFC Manning, however, is not much better now that he has been returned to POI watch. Like suicide risk, he is held in solitary confinement. For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell. The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.

Manning's routine is even more restricted under suicide watch, which requires him to surrender his prescription glasses and remain in his cell 24 hours a day, with no clothing except for his underwear.

“He was forced to sit in essential blindness with the exception of the times that he was reading or given limited television privileges,” Coombs adds. “During those times, his glasses were returned to him. Additionally, there was always a guard sitting outside of his cell watching him.”

The petition will be forwarded to the officer in charge of court-martial proceedings, who is required to inquire into the complaint and take proper measures. ®

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