WASHINGTON — A military judge has postponed the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with aiding terrorists by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified government cables and reports to WikiLeaks, from March until June so the judge can determine how classified information may be used during the proceedings, Army officials said.
Manning, a 25-year-old former intelligence analyst in Iraq, is accused of giving the website WikiLeaks more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was arrested in May 2010 and faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors have indicated that they intend to introduce classified evidence showing that al-Qaida used some of the classified documents that Manning allegedly provided to WikiLeaks.
Manning’s lawyers have said he is willing to plead guilty to lesser charges for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In the proposed agreement, Manning would admit to sending WikiLeaks classified reports and cables, but he wouldn’t plead guilty to aiding the enemy or other violations of federal espionage laws.
The judge in the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, could approve Manning’s offer to plead to lesser charges before his trial starts on June 3. Prosecutors could then seek a broader plea agreement, or press ahead with a trial on the more serious charges.
During a pre-trial hearing Tuesday in Fort Meade, Md., Lind denied Manning’s request to dismiss all the charges because of evidence that Manning was mistreated during his imprisonment in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in 2010 and 2011.
Brig officials had acknowledged in court that Manning was kept in a windowless cell for 23 hours a day and sometimes stripped of his clothes in order to prevent him from hurting himself or others.
Lind ruled that Manning’s confinement at Marine Corps Base Quantico was “more rigorous than necessary” and said Manning is entitled to have 112 days cut from any prison sentence he receives if convicted.
Lind’s ruling appeared to contradict President Barack Obama’s assertion during a news conference in March 2011 that Manning’s treatment in the brig was “appropriate.”
Manning was later transferred to an Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.