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US soldier in leaks case left naked in jail cell: lawyer

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 3, 2011
A lawyer for the US soldier suspected of passing secret files to WikLeaks accused military authorities Thursday of abusing his client by leaving him naked in his prison cell for seven hours.

Army private Bradley Manning, 23, was "inexplicably stripped of all clothing by the Quantico Brig" late Wednesday, his lawyer David Coombs wrote on his blog.

"He remained in his cell, naked, for the next seven hours."

At 5:00 a.m., he was forced to stand naked at the front of his prison cell during an inspection before his clothes were handed back to him 10 minutes later, the lawyer wrote.

"This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification. It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated," said Coombs.

"Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation."

Manning's supporters, defense lawyers and rights groups have protested the conditions of his detention and argued that the maximum security regimen he faces amounts to inhumane treatment of a man who has yet to be convicted of a crime.

His defense lawyers have filed a legal complaint over the detention conditions for Manning, which include a "prevention of injury" watch out of fear he may attempt to kill himself.

Under the strict rules, Manning is allowed out of his cell for only one hour a day for exercise outside or at an indoor gym.

Under the "prevention of injury" watch, guards check on Manning "every five minutes by asking him if he is okay" and wake him at night if they cannot see him clearly, according to Coombs.

The lawyer has said mental health specialists at the prison have advised prison authorities to lift the special watch.

Manning has been held at the prison since July under a maximum security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.

The army private faces numerous charges for stealing classified files and is suspected as the source of a massive trove of classified documents published on the WikiLeaks website in recent months, infuriating and embarrassing US officials.

The Pentagon earlier rejected allegations of harsh conditions and said Manning received treatment similar to others under the high-security regime.

"There's 30 people on a U-shaped corridor, so he's not in a hole. He's not away from others. He's allowed to have conversations with others on that corridor," press secretary Geoff Morrell told MSNBC after he paid a visit to the site himself.

"He's not being treated differently than any other maximum security detainee and not differently really that much from the medium security detainees."

US military authorities brought additional charges against Manning on Wednesday, accusing him of illegally downloading vast numbers of secret government files and "aiding the enemy," a charge that could carry the death penalty if convicted.

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