The support group for transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning are reportedly calling for her release from what they describe as “solitary confinement.”
“Chelsea can’t be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, or visit the law library, and has no access to books or reading material,” the Chelsea Resists support group said in a statement.
“She has not been outside for 16 days. She is permitted to make phone calls and move about outside her cell between 1 and 3 a.m.”
US District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Manning into custody after she refused to testify before a grand jury investigating Wikileaks in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday (March 8), according to the Associated Press (AP).
However, Alexandria sheriff said the support group’s statement was “not accurate or fair,” according to CNN.
“Our facility does not have ‘solitary confinement’ and inmates housed in administrative segregation for safety and security reasons still have access to social visits, books, recreation, and break time outside their cells,” said Lawhorne.
Alexandria sheriff says reports Chelsea Manning is in solitary confinement are “not accurate or fair”
During the brief hearing on Friday, Judge Hilton told Manning: “I’ve found you in contempt,” adding that she would remain in custody “either until you purge yourself or the end of the life of the grand jury,” according to The Washington Post.
The judge also said she will remain in prison until she decides to testify or until the grand jury concludes its investigation.
Manning, quoted in AP, told the judge in court that she “will accept whatever you bring upon me.”
Before the hearing began, the former US soldier indicated that she would refuse to testify because she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process.
“These secret proceedings tend to favour the government. I’m always willing to explain things publicly.”
— Chelsea Manning
“These secret proceedings tend to favour the government,” Manning told reporters outside of the court, as The Washington Post reported. She added: “I’m always willing to explain things publicly.”
The transgender campaigner also displayed a huge stack of papers, which formed the transcripts from her military trial. At the end of that trial in 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Manning said these papers would tell prosecutors everything they needed to know, adding: “I’ve given voluminous testimony; I’ve given voluminous information.”
Manning was released from prison in May 2017 after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence for leaking classified government documents concerning alleged war crimes and rights abuses via Wikileaks.
Chelsea Manning was prepared to go to jail for refusing to testify
According to AP, Manning indicated before Friday’s hearing that she was prepared to go to jail.
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“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available,” she said.
Her attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, told The Washington Post that it would constitute “an act of tremendous cruelty” to send Manning back to prison.
Outside the Virginia court, Meltzer-Cohen said it was “quite likely” that the judge’s ruling would be appealed.
She added: “Obviously prison is a terrible place. I don’t see the purpose to incarcerate people.”
Prosecutor Tracy McCormick responded to concerns over Manning’s medical wellbeing and safety behind bars by saying that the jail and the marshals had given assurances to the government that her needs would be met.
She added that Manning could end her time in jail by testifying.
“We hope she changes her mind now,” McCormick said.
Manning had gender confirmation surgery last year, after first coming out as trans in 2013.
In a post on social media after the surgery, she wrote: “After almost a decade of fighting—thru prison, the courts, a hunger strike, and thru the insurance company—I finally got surgery this week.”