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Bradley Manning in court as lawyers wrestle over secret docs

Pre-trial hearing for soldier accused of WikiLeaks dump

Bradley Manning, the US soldier charged with leaking confidential government and military documents to whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks, returned to court yesterday for the first day of a pretrial hearing as lawyers argued over what documents were relevant to his case.

The 23-year-old has been in jail since May 2010.

Manning's attorney, David Coombs, is seeking documents that assess the impact of the WikiLeaks scandal on the American government but said he had hit "roadblock after roadblock" in his quest to obtain them, reported the American Armed Forces Press Service.

Coombs accused the government of providing the requested records too slowly, in a piecemeal fashion or not at all.

The prosecution, acting for the CIA, said that Coombs' requests were "unreasonable" and irrelevant. Lead prosecutor, army Major Ashden Fein claimed that the defence was delaying the trial, and was attempting to "greymail" the government by demanding classified material that the government would be reluctant to release.

Army Captain Joshua Tooman, one of Manning’s two military lawyers, asserted that this threatens the defence team’s strategy of proving that the leaks caused little or no damage.

Manning faces 22 charges, and the defence team hopes to get 10 of them dismissed before the trial starts.

Charges against the 23-year-old include: "aiding the enemy"; "wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy", "theft of public property or records"; "transmitting defense information"; and "fraud and related activity in connection with computers".

The presiding judge at the military tribunal, Colonel Denise Lind, has allocated more days to pretrial hearings in an attempt to break through log-jams.

The next pre-trial hearings have been set for 16 to 20 July, 27 to 31 August, and 19 to 20 September.

Manning faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty of the charges. ®

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