POLITICS

Support Group Calls Chelsea Manning's Solitary Confinement 'Torture'

The former intelligence analyst has been jailed for more than two weeks after refusing to answer questions about the 2010 WikiLeaks case.

A support committee for government whistleblower Chelsea Manning is trying to get the transgender activist removed from solitary confinement in Virginia, saying the punishment hurts her health.

The group, Chelsea Resists!, released a statement Saturday condemning Manning’s solitary confinement at William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia. The group said Manning has been in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day since March 8 and must be removed.

“We have worked to monitor Chelsea’s well-being since her arrival at Truesdale. In her first week she contracted a bacterial infection, which has since been resolved by antibiotics,” the statement said. “More recently, she experienced the shift between the prolonged under stimulation of 22-hour lockdown and a 45-minute social visit as so jarring that she threw up.”

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who oversees the detention center, told HuffPost the allegations are “not accurate or fair.”

“Inmates housed in administrative segregation for safety and security reasons still have access to social visits, books, recreation, and break time outside their cells,” Lawhorne said. “Further, our staff interacts with Ms. Manning throughout the day, and we are in regular contact with her attorneys and work with them, as we do with other inmates, to address any concerns.”

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, has been jailed for more than two weeks after being found in contempt of court for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury earlier this month about classified U.S. documents she sent in 2010 to WikiLeaks, an online anti-secrecy group. The hearing was part of a larger federal investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently avoiding extradition by hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Manning’s support committee said in its statement that the detention center has been attending to her health, including providing Manning’s hormone medication and daily post-surgery treatment. She confirmed on Twitter that she completed gender confirmation surgery in October.

But the group stressed that the conditions in solitary confinement “amount to torture, possibly in an attempt to coerce her into compliance with the grand jury.”

“Chelsea is a principled person, and she has made clear that while this kind of treatment will harm her, and will almost certainly leave lasting scars, it will never make her change her mind about cooperating with the grand jury,” the group said.

Lawhorne said the federal government “has never suggested to us how to treat any inmate and it is unfair to imply that there is a ‘conspiracy’ of any kind.”

In 2010, WikiLeaks published thousands of pages of classified information related to U.S. warfare in the Middle East, including a video showing an American helicopter firing on journalists and Iraqi civilians. Manning pleaded guilty to the leaks and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013, but then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January 2017.

While in prison for the leaks, Manning became an icon of transgender struggle when she went on a hunger strike to protest officials who denied her request for gender confirmation treatment. She eventually ended her strike after the Army granted her request. 

The story has been updated with comment from Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

CONVERSATIONS