President Obama’s time as President is almost at an end, but as one of his final acts of President he has commuted the sentence of transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Chelsea was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in leaking classified government documents concerning alleged war crimes and rights abuses via WikiLeaks. This was one of the largest breaches of security in US history.
Obama commuting her sentence will bring to a close a very tumultous time at prison, as Chelsea sued the army for her right to undergo a gender transition whilst in prison, and also tried to commit suicide over the issue as well as going on a hunger strike. She was finally allowed to undergo her transition, but court documents suggest military officials are still refusing to recognise her transition.
There have been suggestions from the White House in the recent days that they were open to commuting Chelsea’s sentence. It has now been confirmed that Chelsea will be included in the final round of pardons and commutations from President Obama. However, Edward Snowden will not be granted a pardon alongside her.
Chelsea Manning will now be released in May of this year instead of 2035.
HRC Communications Director Jay Brown said of the news: “President Obama has a strong record regarding the humane treatment of prisoners and a long commitment to LGBTQ equality.”
“The decision to commute Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s remaining sentence – after she served nearly 7 years for her crimes – reflects that record. We hope Pvt. Manning soon can access the care and treatment that she, and every transgender person, deserves.”
David Coombs, who is serving as Chelsea Manning’s lawyer, also responded to the decision: “It really is a great act of mercy by President Obama.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who covered the Edward Snowden leaks, said to the BBC: “”I don’t think she should have spent a single day in prison.” He also said she was “heroic and has inspired millions of people around the world”.
You may recall that previously, the owner of WikiLeaks Julian Assange said that he would agree to be extradited to the US if Obama agreed to commute Chelsea’s sentence. However the White House has said that this offer had no bearing on their decision to agree to it, and the US justice department has not indicted Mr Assange or publicly sought his extradition.