Whistleblower and former United States Army soldier Chelsea Manning has been released after 62 days of her arrest for contempt of court. Manning was arrested on March 8, when she refused to testify, under a subpoena order, for the ongoing federal investigation against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Manning had refused to comply with the subpoena by a grand jury, arguing that she had given her testimony before authorities when she was being prosecuted on various counts of treason in 2013, for having leaked several military logs to the public.
Manning was released on May 9, when the 62-day term of the grand jury expired. Despite the release, the prosecutors subpoenaed her again to testify to a new jury on May 16. If she refuses to testify again, Manning is likely to be held in prison again for contempt. Earlier today, Manning and her lawyers filed an eight-page motion, declaring her resolve to refuse to testify to the grand jury.
The existing laws on subpoena allow for arrest in cases where the witness is likely to cooperate because of the imprisonment. Manning’s lawyers have argued that she should not be arrested for contempt again since she is determined to not cooperate with the jury. In cases like this, the subpoena as well as the purpose of the jury becomes ineffective.
Her lawyers have further argued that she has demonstrated tremendous resolve to do what she believes is right, even if it means not cooperating with a federal investigation. Moira Meltzer-Cohen, her current advocate, stated, “Chelsea is a person of great moral courage, who will not be swayed into betraying her principles, even in the face of great hardship.”
This was reiterated by her former lawyer, Chase Strangio, from the American Civil Liberties Union. “The constant in Ms. Manning’s life is her unwavering commitment to her principles… I am certain that no punishment could coerce her to violate those principles,” he said.
Manning herself summarized her dilemma as “I can either go to jail or betray my principles. The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct.”
Chelsea Manning served as an intelligence analyst for the US Army since 2007, and was revealed to be a crucial source for the Wikileaks. A large portion of the cable leaks published on Wikileaks, especially for such high-profile document dumps as Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Diary, came from Manning.
She was arrested and charged with 22 federal offenses in May 2010. After three years of prosecution, torture and various acts of human rights violations against her, she was eventually sentenced to 17 years in prison by a federal court in 2013. The sentence was later commuted by the Obama administration, in January 2017, to a seven years, effective from the date of her arrest in 2010. Manning was eventually released in May 2017, and has been an active political activist since then.