News coming out of the USA this morning has sent shivers down my spine in the best way. Outgoing US President Barack Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s 35 year prison sentence to just four months.
The decision means that Manning will walk out of the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where she has been serving a 35 year sentence on 17th May.
In 2013 Manning was found guilty of leaking some 700 000 documents, videos, and diplomatic cables among other military secrets to WikiLeaks. Her imprisonment has been rough. Manning attempted suicide twice in 2016 and being a transgender woman in a men’s military prison cannot be easy.
The decision has been welcomed by Amnesty International USA executive director Margret Huang who applauded the president’s decision but said that it was long overdue. “It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice,” said Huang.
Adversely, speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan has slammed the president for his decision. “This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
Earlier this year WikiLeaks announced that if Manning was granted clemency by Obama, Julian Assange would agree to extradition to the US, “despite clear unconstitutionality of the DOJ case.”
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
Many have said that this tweet from WikiLeaks influenced Obama’s decision but a White House official told The Guardian, “The president’s decision to offer commutation was not influenced by public comments by Mr Assange or the WikiLeaks organization.”
The eyes of the world will now turn to the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has lived since June 2012.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has also welcomed the president’s decisions in a tweet on his official account.
Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama. https://t.co/IeumTasRNN
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 17, 2017