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Marine brig officials grilled about GI’s jailing

December 7, 2012

FORT MEADE, Md. - A former Marine Corps brig commander testified Thursday that a vague rule meant he could keep Pfc. Bradley Manning on suicide watch even after a psychiatrist determined that wasn't necessary, as lawyers for the soldier at the center of the WikiLeaks case chipped away at inconsistencies in the military's rationale for how it jailed Manning.

The Army private has argued in the pretrial hearing that the conditions of his confinement at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., were so harsh that the charges - including aiding the enemy by giving classified information to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website - should be dropped.

Regardless of whether they prevail, Manning's attorneys have used the hearing to portray the 24-year-old as a victim of hard-headed captors who went out of their way to punish him even though he has yet to be tried.

On the eighth day of the pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Averhart was called to the stand by prosecutors - their 10th witness in the last five days. Defense attorney David Coombs spent about five hours on a cross-examination aimed at undercutting the government's position that brig commanders believed Manning's treatment was justified to prevent self-injury.

A day earlier, the Marine Corps' chief of corrections testified that Averhart wrongly kept Manning on suicide watch for at least seven days of his nine months' confinement. A former brig supervisor denied making light of Manning's homosexuality when he referred to the soldier's underwear as "panties" in a staff memo sparked by Manning standing naked at attention one morning. Manning claims he was ordered to do so.

The defense claims Manning's confinement amounted to illegal pretrial punishment, and that all charges against Manning should be dropped or he should at least get extra credit at sentencing.



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