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WikiLeaker Bradley Manning found not guilty of 'aiding the enemy'

Still facing over a century in military prison

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In a surprise verdict, US Army Private Bradley Manning has been found not guilty of the serious charge of "aiding the enemy" by a military court, but still faces over a century behind bars after being found guilty of 20 other charges.

Bradley Manning in court

Manning at the court. Credit: Patrick Semansky AP

"While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform," his family said in a statement.

Manning, who opted to be tried by a judge rather than a jury of enlisted Army personnel, was cleared of "aiding the enemy", which under Article 104 of the US Uniform Code of Military Justice could have meant the death penalty (although the prosecutors ruled that out) or life imprisonment.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind cleared him of this, and of one espionage charge, but she ruled him guilty on all other counts, according to the charge sheet posted by Alexa O'Brien, a freelance journalist who has been at every day of the trial.

Manning, who has been held incommunicado since his arrest over three years ago, did not comment when the verdict was announced, and was taken from the room immediately afterwards.

He won’t know how long he'll be behind bars just yet – sentencing begins tomorrow – but he has already pleaded guilty to 10 charges of misusing and transmitting classified information that could put him away for 20 years. Tuesday's verdict will pile on yet more time to that potential total, with WikiLeaks saying the verdict gives him a possible prison term of 136 years.

In the spirit of always looking on the bright side, Manning will still get a full 112 days lopped off his final sentence to make up for being "illegally punished" in a military prison run by the US Marines at Quantico, an earlier hearing ruled. Manning had been kept in a windowless cell for 23 hours a day, often naked and forbidden to sit down or lean against a wall for long periods.

It seems unlikely that Manning will receive any mitigation for the manner in which the information was leaked. After being rebuffed by The New York Times and the Washington Post, he gave the data to WikiLeaks on the condition that no sensitive data was released, and the organization and the media outlets who published it performed extensive checks.

The data itself – including video of the accidental killing of two Reuters journalists and Afghan civilians by a US helicopter gunship, along with 470,000 Afghanistan and Iraq battlefield reports, as well as 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables – has now been widely picked over and is, in the opinion of the UK's former top spymaster, embarrassing but not a threat. ®

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