WikiLeaks Suspect Appears in Military Court

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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A defense attorney on Friday called for the presiding officer to withdraw from the case of a U.S. Army soldier accused of leaking classified documents.

At the opening of the pre-trial hearing for Private First Class Bradley Manning, attorney David Coombs argued that the hearing officer should step down because he works as a Justice Department prosecutor in civilian life. The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who allegedly received the classified documents from Manning.

The hearing, at Fort Meade just outside Washington, is to determine if Manning should face trial in a military court.

The former intelligence analyst is accused of illegally downloading hundreds of thousands of sensitive files while serving in Iraq between November 2009 and May 2010.

He allegedly shared the documents with the WikiLeaks Web site, which began publishing them in July 2010.

The leaked diplomatic cables and military reports roiled the international community, often providing blunt and unflattering U.S. views of world leaders' private and public lives.

Also Friday, Britain's Supreme Court ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could appeal his extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sex crimes.

Assange denies the allegations of sexual assault and says they are politically motivated because of WikiLeaks released classified U.S. documents.

Assange will remain free on bail in Britain until his Supreme Court hearing, on February 1.

U.S. officials say WikiLeak's publication of the stolen documents put lives in danger, threatened national security and undermined American efforts to work with other countries.

Manning faces several charges, including “aiding the enemy,” which is a capital offense. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty. However, Manning, who turns 24 on Saturday, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.