By Niles Niemuth
July 20, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - Whistleblower and political prisoner Chelsea Manning has now been confined to a federal detention center in Alexandria, Virginia for more than four months and is being subjected to punitive fines which could ruin her financially.
Manning is not being punished for any crime, nor has she been charged with a crime. Rather, she is being held in contempt of court for refusing—on principle and courageously—to testify before a star chamber grand jury impaneled to railroad journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into a US prison, or worse.
Daily fines placed on Manning by Federal District Judge Anthony Trenga for refusing to testify doubled from $500 to $1,000 on Tuesday, with the total now standing at $18,000. The unprecedented financial penalties against Manning threaten her with personal bankruptcy and have already resulted in her losing her apartment in June.
Manning’s attorneys have warned that she will be saddled with more than $440,000 in fines if the grand jury sits until its term expires in October 2020, an amount which they say would violate the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on excessive fines.
Assange is being pursued by the Trump administration for his role in publishing the war logs, diplomatic cables and “Collateral Murder” video which Manning leaked in 2010. He is currently being held in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in London, England, on a bogus bail jumping conviction while he awaits extradition to the United States on charges which carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
The fact that Manning is still in jail means that further charges are still being considered, possibly including those which carry the death penalty. They will only be unsealed once Assange is securely in the clutches of the Trump administration.
Despite the government’s vindictive campaign against her, Manning has been steadfast in her principled refusal to testify against Assange or before any other grand jury. She told Judge Trenga in May, when he jailed her for a second time after a week’s respite, that she would “rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard,” adding “And when I say that, I mean that quite literally.”
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