On Thursday, March 12, 2020, a federal judge ordered that former Army analyst Chelsea Manning be immediately released from the Virginia jail where she had been held in contempt for nearly a year.
NBC News reported that Manning was taken to a hospital the day before after attempting to commit suicide. The former Army analyst was scheduled for a hearing on Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, where the she was held since May after refusing to answer questions from a grand jury reviewing the release of documents to WikiLeaks.
However, the U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga said on Thursday that the grand jury had finished all that it had to do and came to the conclusion that Manning’s “appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed.” He ordered the Justice Department to release her immediately but still demanded that the Army veteran pay the $256,000 in fines that the she had accumulated in trying to fight the order to testify.
Manning was court-martialed on charges of espionage and other violations in 2013 after leaking sensitive military files to WikiLeaks. She has refused to continue answering questions about WikiLeaks, arguing that she already did so at her trial seven years ago.
She was jailed in May 2019 after refusing to participate in an appearance before the grand jury, even with a grant of immunity. She was then informed that she would be jailed and fined each day until she finally decided to appear or until the grand jury ceased to exist. Federal grand juries usually serve limited terms.
Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison, but was released in 2017 after President Barack Obama ended up commuting her sentence.
Manning refused to testify before the grand jury on the grounds that she doesn’t “believe in the grand jury process.”
“I don’t believe in the secrecy of this,” she said outside the courthouse before being imprisoned.
Her lawyers requested that her fines be nullified, but the judge denied the request Thursday, asserting that it had been “necessary to the coercive purpose” of the civil contempt order that originally landed her in jail in the first place.