Army private Bradley Manning received an outpouring of support over the weekend as people around the world launched rallies, vigils, and civil disobedience actions demanding the release of the whistleblower.
Yet, inside the courtroom, Manning has been met with anything but support: the whistleblower faces a last-minute change in charges that his lawyers say defies due process and could weaken his defense.
From London to Seoul to San Francisco, organizers in over 40 cities across the globe launched solidarity actions Saturday, as Manning awaits sentencing from the judge overseeing his case. The actions included protests at U.S. embassies throughout Europe, a large banner drop in Florida, and a flash mob in San Francisco, organizers said.
RT reports 40 protests in German cities alone, with the largest German rally in Frankfurt.
"It is very heartwarming to see people support him, but it is not a surprise, and support is growing day after day," said Farah Muhsin of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
"People see that this is not a fair trial, and they see that Bradley Manning did the right thing and the heroic thing, sparking the debate he hoped to spark about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about U.S. involvement in other countries. Organizing these actions helps spark these debates."
Last week, the presiding judge defied legal propriety and assisted the prosecution by allowing the government to change its charges just days away from sentencing, to accusations that Manning 'stole' portions of databases, rather than entire databases. This puts the defense at a severe disadvantage, as they have spent the previous months defending against charges that are now irrelavent.
Manning's defense is demanding a mistrial on the 'theft' charges. Jeff Paterson and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network declared in a statement, "If [the judge] does not declare a mistrial on the theft charges, she will be taking the government's unsupported position yet again, further prejudicing Bradley Manning, whose trial is already rife with injustice."
The weekend protests followed several rallies last week -- timed to garner support as Manning enters the sentencing phase -- including an action immediately following closing arguments in Manning's trial, in which supporters blocked the gates to Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C. at the office of Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the trial's convening authority.
Manning's supporters are calling on Buchanan -- who has the ability to reduce Manning's sentence -- to 'do the right thing' and protect the whistleblower.
Manning is currently facing a possible life sentence for exposing hundreds of thousands of classified documents revealing U.S. war crimes and injustices after the judge presiding his trial refused to drop the 'aiding the enemy' charge.
Manning's supporters have blasted military authorities and the Obama Administration for denying the private due process, elevating his charges, and placing him in solitary confinement torture conditions for nearly a year -- severe punishments that critics say are aimed at intimidating whistleblowers.
Update: The judge presiding over Manning's case announced today that the verdict will be read at 1pm eastern time Tuesday.
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer at Common Dreams, where this article was originally published. It is reprinted here with permission.
Photo: Bradley Manning Support Network/Flickr Creative Commons
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