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Manning's lawyer calls for pre-trial officer to quit case

Alleged Wikileaks source appears in pre-trial hearing

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Alleged Wikileaks cables source Private Bradley Manning will not get an unbiased military trial unless the officer presiding over his case is replaced, said Manning's defence lawyer David Coombs today.

The brief was speaking at a preliminary hearing in the military base of Fort Meade, Maryland, according to the Associated Press news wire.

The investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Almanza presides over military trials as a judge or jury would in a civilian trial. Coombs claimed in court that Almanza's other day job as a Justice Department prosecutor made him biased - said department is in the middle of holding an investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Almanza, who is an Army reservist, said he hasn't formed an opinion about Manning's guilt or innocence.

Today's proceedings, officially known as an Article 32 hearing, are intended to test the evidence before the court determines whether or not Manning should face a court-martial; both the prosecution and defence make their initial cases and are permitted to cross-examine witnesses. The defence team asserts that the documents have caused little damage.

The prosecution today brought 23 charges against Private Bradley Manning.

The 23-year-old has been in jail since May 2010 when he was arrested on suspicion of endangering national security by allegedly leaking thousands of confidential government and military documents to Wikileaks, including a video of a US helicopter raid that killed 11 people. He was arrested after allegedly confiding in an ex-hacker. ®

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