It has been claimed that alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning was mocked and assaulted for being gay while in the US Army.

Manning was working as a military intelligence specialist when he was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of passing restricted material to the whistleblower website and has been charged with 34 offences, including making information available to the enemy.

While the charges he faces carry a maximum penalty of death, US military prosecutors have said they will not seek this. Instead, he may face life in prison if convicted.

He is openly gay and newly-released online conversations between him and a gay rights campaigner suggest he was bullied for being gay by Army colleagues.

In AOL Instant Messenger conversations with 19-year-old Zachary Antolak, who lived near Chicago, Manning said his colleagues had figured out he was gay, despite the ban on openly gay troops.

“It took them a while, but they started figuring me out, making fun of me, mocking me, harassing me, heating up with one or two physical attacks,” he wrote to Antolak.

The conversation logs were discovered by New York magazine journalist Steve Fishman, who has just published a profile of Manning in the publication.

He also claims that a counsellor who saw Manning in November 2009 said the soldier was apparently struggling with his gender identity and spoke of wanting to become a woman.