By Cassandra Fairbanks, investigative journalist and freedom of speech activist. Follow Cassandra at @CassandraRules
After nearly a year in jail for refusing to participate in a secretive grand jury against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning has finally been released, but the political persecution she’s endured for a decade continues.
On Wednesday Manning attempted to take her own life, just days before she was scheduled to appear before a judge about a motion to terminate contempt sanctions.
“Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself,” her legal team said in a statement about the incident, adding, “Her actions today evidence the strength of her convictions, as well as the profound harm she continues to suffer as a result of her ‘civil’ confinement.”
The following day, Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia announced that the grand jury she was being tormented into participating in was dismissed and ordered her immediate release.
Manning has long stood against grand juries, due to her belief that they are used as a tool to harass and entrap activists, journalists and others who dare to question government. A belief that was arguably validated by the the judge presiding over the grand jury, who described her continued confinement as having served a “coercive purpose.”
Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, but her sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in 2017 during the final days of his presidency. She should have been left alone to rebuild her life then, but the government continues to torment and persecute her.
During the trial, Manning testified extensively about her dealings with WikiLeaks. There is no need to force her to go through it again. Everything that prosecutors could have possibly wanted to know about her interactions with Assange and WikiLeaks can be found in the transcripts, meaning that this was just another way to continue to torment and torture her.
There are not many people in this world with the courage and convictions that Manning has repeatedly demonstrated. From leaking evidence of war crimes being committed by the US military to WikiLeaks during her time as an Army intelligence analyst, to her imprisonment for refusing to testify against the publisher, Manning has shown that she will always stand by her principles and do what her conscience believes to be right – even if it is at great harm to herself.
Manning’s bravery and integrity are rare and remarkable things. They should be celebrated and admired, even by those who may disagree with the means she used to get the truth out back in 2010. To be willing to die before cooperating in the unjust political persecution of a publisher is a defense of the free press that would have made our founding fathers proud.
While she will be leaving the jail, Manning is still required to pay $256,000 to the court after being fined $500, then $1,000 per day while in “coercive confinement.” The crippling and excessive monetary punishment is just another way the US government is refusing to let her be truly free.