Manning’s legal team to seek pardon from Obama
Whistleblower to argue he acted out of love for country and duty to others
David Coombs, who defended Bradley Manning throughout his trial for espionage-related charges, questioned the length of the sentence imposed on his client and the necessity of a closed trial hearing. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Bradley Manning’s legal team said yesterday they would seek a pardon for their client from US president Barack Obama or “at the very least commute his sentence to time served”.
David Coombs, who defended Manning throughout his trial for espionage-related charges, said that in seeking the pardon, Manning would explain that in deciding to leak the information, he was acting out of “a love [for his] country and a sense of duty to others”.
In addition, the defence team is appealing yesterday’s decision to the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Mr Coombs described Manning as “a man of honour” and “a moral man” as he outlined the next step for his client. “And that morality was with him from the beginning,” he said. “ He went [to Iraq] with the goal of saving lives.”
Mr Coombs said he intended to study the intricacies of parole review to try to ensure the earliest possible release for Manning. He questioned the length of the sentence imposed on his client and the necessity of a closed trial hearing.
“Every day I left thinking I don’t know why we are in a closed session. There was nothing that was said in my mind warranted a closed session. We have a serious problem in this country and that’s over-classification. A lot of stuff happened that would not have happened because the American public would have seen it and said that that is unfair.”
Reacting to the imposition of a 35-year sentence, Mr Coombs said his clients “have run the gamut from people who committed murder to [those who have] molested children. And those types of clients receive less time than Pfc Manning”.
He said Manning had been calm and resilient in the minutes after hearing the verdict, telling Mr Coombs he “would get through this” and offering comfort to his legal team.
In response to questions, Mr Coombs acknowledged that the severity of the sentence could inhibit others from placing classified information in the public domain.
The main “loser”, he said, is “anyone who hopes you’ll have whistleblowers in the future willing to step forward. Because it does send a message and it’s a chilling one”.
Mr Coombs said he hoped Manning might be freed long before his sentence expires.