62 days later, the whistleblower and activist still refuses to testify to a grand jury over Wikileaks
After 62 days of confinement for refusing to testify in an investigation into Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning has been released from prison.
Manning’s lawyers, friends, and allies have been calling for her release since she was taken into custody in Virginia back in March, asserting that she was being held in abusive conditions. The whistleblower, former intelligence analyst, and activist was held for up to 22 hours a day in solitary confinement.
Manning was released from the William G Truesdale adult detention centre in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday (May 10), after the grand jury she had defied expired. However, her freedom may be brief – Manning was issued with a new subpoena ordering her to appear before another grand jury, as early as next week, according to her lawyers. She could face being imprisoned for contempt of court if she continues defying the grand jury – Manning has remained steadfast that she would not answer any new questions, stating she had given all information she knew before.
“Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defence to prove... that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” a statement from her lawyers reads.
She previously served seven years of a 35-year sentence for leaking state secrets, after previous president Barack Obama granted her clemency in 2017. Her treatment in prison was condemned by human rights groups as abusive and torturous.
As we previously reported, grand juries are used to establish “probable cause” that a felony offense has been committed and whether charges can be brought. This happens without a judge or defense attorney present. According to critics of the process, it is eschewed to favour indictment of the individual or group accused of a crime.
People have historically resisted engaging with a grand jury because of the secrecy that surrounds the process and the power that they have without many checks and balances. The Grand Jury Resistance Project, a coalition of lawyers, activists, and individuals “targeted by government harassment”, has highlighted that grand juries have been used by the FBI and police investigations against social justice movements and activists, from the McCarthy era to anti-war and black liberation movements.
The case which Manning has been called for is sealed, so there’s no details of why she is being pressured to testify. It is in the same district that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was charged.
“I can – without any hesitation – state that nothing will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for that matter,” Manning said earlier this week. “This experience so far only proves my long held belief that grand juries are simply outdated tools used by the federal government to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists in fishing expeditions.”
A fund for Manning’s defence team has been set up and is open for contributions.