WikiLeaks pays US soldier $15,100 legal fee for leaks


London : Whistle-blower website Wikileaks has donated $15,100 to the legal defence fund of the US soldier accused of providing it with the digital trove of secret diplomatic cables sent to and from American embassies across the globe.

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The legal defence fund of Private Bradley Manning, charged with the disclosure of thousands of classified documents, has received the money from the website as part of its pledge to bear a substantial part of the financial burden of the soldier’s defence, the Guardian reported.

Manning, who faces 52 years in prison, is expected to face a preliminary military procedure ahead of a court martial in March.

He was arrested last May in Iraq, where he was stationed on intelligence duties, and has been kept in solitary confinement for the last five months in a military jail in the US.

WikiLeaks’ slow response in coming to the financial aid of its alleged source has long been a cause of frustration for his supporters.

In the past, the Bradley Manning Support Network has indicated that WikiLeaks had promised to pay up to $50,000 in legal fees, although that offer was reduced to $20,000 in December and the payment ended up being $15,000.

Part of the problem may be explained by WikiLeaks’ own financial difficulties as a result of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal cutting off its accounts after pressure from the US government.

The support network calculates that the legal fund needs to have at least $115,000 to fight a vigorous defence. Including the WikiLeaks donation, it has collected more than $100,000.

Jeff Paterson, a member of the support network’s steering committee, said the financial target had almost been met so the focus of the campaign would switch from fund raising to publicising what the treatment of Manning, which he said was inhumane.

“Internationally, people are speaking out against the unjust imprisonment of Bradley Manning, who is accused of acting out of moral conviction,” Paterson was quoted as saying.

Manning is being held in solitary confinement under a prevention of injury order despite having been cleared by a military psychologist earlier this year.

David House, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher who is allowed to visit Manning, has reported a steady deterioration in his condition.

The startling disclosure of over 250,000 embassy cables leaked recently caused major embarrassment to the US government.