Enlarge /. Manning in 2019 when she was temporarily free between two Grand Jury terms.
ERIC BARADAT / AFP via Getty Images
Virginia's federal judge, Anthony Trenga, ordered Chelsea Manning's release on Thursday after nearly a year in prison. The judge contemptured Manning for refusing to testify before a large jury about issues related to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. But now that the Grand Jury has finished its work, there is no longer a legal basis to hold Manning.
In 2010, Manning was a private army with access to some of the U.S. military's classified networks. Worried about the waging of American wars in the Middle East, Manning released Wikileaks a huge amount of classified military documents in hopes of sparking a national debate.
But the US government quickly identified Manning and tried a military court. In 2013 she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. But just before President Obama resigned in 2017, he changed Manning's sentence and allowed her to go free years earlier.
But their conflict with the U.S. government wasn't over yet. In 2019, the federal attorney's office called her to testify before a large jury when the government was building her case against Assange. Manning – not known for her compromising spirit – flatly refused to testify. So the judge sent her to prison for contempt.
This actually happened twice. She was despised in front of a large jury in March 2019. When the jury's term of office expired in May, she was released. However, her freedom lasted only a week before the government called another large jury and called Manning again. Again she refused to testify and the judge despised her. The last detention lasted until this week when the grand jury closed its deal.
Manning has taken a hard line here because she does not believe that the Grand Jury's secret process by which prosecutors file charges against the accused is legitimate.
Manning not only serves prison terms, but also faces heavy fines. She was ordered to pay the court up to $ 1,000 a day if she refused to testify. Over the course of a year, these fines totaled more than $ 250,000. Manning's lawyers said she was practically broke and had no realistic prospect of paying that large number.