US President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, a former American soldier whose leaking of sensitive diplomatic and military material in 2010 revealed damaging evidence about US activities throughout the world.
Ms Manning was convicted of espionage for passing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks and has served seven years of a 35-year sentence.
Ms Manning’s actions led to Wikileaks becoming famous.
The decision also casts doubt on the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has previously said he would agree to extradition to the US if Ms Manning was freed.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
After the announcement Wikileaks tweeted that Mr Assange would stick to his word, and is confident of winning any trial in the US.
Assange lawyer @themtchair on Assange-Manning extradition ‘deal’: “Everything that he has said he’s standing by.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 18, 2017
Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama’s DoJ prevented public interest defense & fair jury. https://t.co/Mb6gXlz7QS
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
After Mr Obama’s commutation, which comes in the last days of his presidency, the former intelligence analyst will now be free on May 17, 2017.
Who is Chelsea Manning?
Ms Manning, born Bradley Manning, twice attempted to commit suicide last year, and has been granted gender dysphoria treatment by the military.
During the Iraq War, Ms Manning worked as an intelligence analyst with access to classified documents.
Documents that she copied and subsequently leaked revealed the abuse of detainees by Iraqi military officers working with US forces and that civilian deaths during the war had been far higher than official sources claimed.
A 2007 graphic military video, copied by Ms Manning and released by WikiLeaks, caused outrage in the US and around the world.
It showed a US helicopter shooting and killing a Reuters photograph and driver in an attack in Baghdad.
During her trial, Ms Manning confessed and pleaded guilty. Later, as she applied for a commutation, Ms Manning she wrote that she believed the military would understand her decision to leak the documents.
“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public,” she wrote, the New York Times reported.
“I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.”
Mr Obama had been facing pressure to commute Ms Manning’s sentence as his presidency came to a close.