22 counts including aiding the enemy
US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning deferred a plea in a military court arraignment on Thursday, marking the first step in a court-martial that could land him in prison for life.
Manning, 24, has been formally charged with 22 counts including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet and theft of public property. It is claimed that Manning downloaded more than 700,000 classified or confidential documents and transferred thousands to WikiLeaks.
Manning's plea deferral allows his defense team time to strategize and see the outcome of several motions to be heard before the trial begins, which could be as late as August. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, announced that Manning would defer his plea as well as a decision on whether to face trial by a military judge or a panel of military members, made up of senior officers or enlisted members of rank no lower than Manning's.
The prosecution claims that Manning was trained on various intelligence systems and methodically downloaded thousands of files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, while serving in Iraq. An investigator claims that they have a link Manning to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, inlcuding logs of web chats. Assange has always denied this. Manning's lawyers have cast him as an emotionally troubled young man whose behavioural problems should have prompted superiors to revoke his access to classified information.