US District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered whistleblower Chelsea Manning released from detention on Thursday, a day after she attempted to take her own life. However, he did not release her from the fines she incurred as punishment, which total a quarter of a million dollars.
“Upon consideration of the Court’s May 16, 2019, order, the motion, and the court’s March 12, 2020, order discharging Grand Jury 19-3, the court finds that Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose,” Judge Trenga wrote in a Thursday court order. “The court further finds that enforcement of the accrued conditional fines would not be punitive but rather necessary to the coercive purpose of the court’s civil contempt order.”
“According, it is hereby ordered that Chelsea Manning be, and she hereby is, immediately released from the custody of the attorney general,” he wrote.
However, the judge denied Manning’s request to have waived $256,000 in fines she had accrued since the previous May, which he added as an additional coercive measure to try and force her to testify.
The decision comes a day after Manning attempted to end her life while in Virginia’s Alexandria Detention Center and a day before she was due to appear in court regarding a February 19 motion for her release. She has been in detention since March 2019 for her refusal to testify before a grand jury about her interactions with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who helped her publish a trove of stolen US government documents in 2010 revealing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning, then a US Army intelligence analyst, was tried and sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for that crime, but released in 2017 when departing US President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.
Her detention has been protested by tens of thousands of activists, academics, politicians, and sympathetic persons, including the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, who wrote a letter to the US government in November denouncing her treatment and calling for her release.
On Wednesday, Melzer wrote on Twitter that Manning’s suicide attempt was “typical for the confusion, dehumanisation & suffering deliberately inflicted through prolonged psychological torture.”
Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom a month after Manning was detained, and the US Department of Justice revealed he was charged with 18 counts relating to his publication of Manning’s documents. The first round of Assange’s extradition hearings in London happened last week, which could see him shipped to the US for trial.