Assange: Manning “a political prisoner”

December 29, 2010

In a December 22, 2010 interview with MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Bradley Manning a political prisoner:

“If we are to believe the allegations, then this man acted for political reasons. He is a political prisoner in the United States.”

Watch the interview

The concept of justified political resistance developed significantly during the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence stated revolution—which depended upon acts punishable by death in Great Britain—was justified because, “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

As our nation grew, the idea of justified political resistance did as well. Americans came to generally believe that otherwise common crimes could have legitimacy if they were carried out by someone seeking to foster political change. “Political offenses,” while always controversial, were categorized by a U.S. court in Quinn v Robinson (1986) as either purely political offenses, such as sedition, or relative political offenses, which include otherwise common crimes committed in connection with a political act, committed for political motives, or committed in a political context.

When considering political prisoners, the conditions of their incarceration must be considered. What are the motivations of a state that subjects a prisoner to what many believe to be torture? Media worldwide have reported in recent weeks about the conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held in the brig at U.S. Marine Base Quantico, first revealed by’s Glenn Greenwald, Attorney David Coombs, and friend David House.  The conditions of Manning’s current detention appear a punitive response to his political motivations.

According to the United States Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons Summary Report, released in June 2006, prisoners who are isolated in solitary confinement up to 23 hours a day are under “torturous conditions that are proven to cause mental detoriation.” Manning’s current situation is so dire that a spokesperson for the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture in Geneva, Michael Nowak, is now investigating complaints about his treatment, according to a report released by the Washington Post on the same day Assange was interviewed.

“Human rights organizations should be investigating the conditions under which he is held and is there really due process there,” Assange said to MSNBC’s Uygur. As explained by Marjorie Cohn, Manning’s alleged crimes follow the tradition of American political activists committing minor offenses for major political motives—exposing war crimes committed on behalf of the American people in the hopes that they would take action and change the political environment that makes the commission of such crimes possible.

We urge you to work on Bradley Manning’s behalf. Take action now! Contact the Commander and Brig Commander of Marine Base Quantico and demand that Bradley Manning’s human rights be respected while he remains in custody.  Additionally, the Network encourages supporters to phone COL Choike at +1-703-784-2707 or write to him at 3250 Catlin Avenue, Quantico, VA 22134, to demand that Bradley Manning’s human rights be respected while he remains in custody.

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