Bradley Manning declines to enter plea at court-martial

February 23, 2012

Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, declined to enter a plea at the start of his court-martial on Thursday, a legal maneuver intended to give his defense more time to hear what evidence or witnesses will be permitted during the proceedings.

During a brief arraignment at Fort Meade, Manning, in his green Army dress uniform, answered questions concerning his counsel and the charges against him. But he deferred a choice of whether to be tried by a military jury or a judge.

Earlier this month, an Army general ordered a court martial for the 24-year-old Manning after a preliminary hearing in which the prosecution presented evidence that Manning had leaked hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, daily field reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other classified material to WikiLeaks.

Manning faces 22 charges, ranging from the use of unauthorized software on a classified computer to aiding the enemy. If convicted of all charges, Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.

In March, the military judge in the case, Col. Denise R. Lind, is scheduled to hear arguments about motions concerning discovery, the deposition of witnesses, and a clarification of charges against Manning, among other motions.

Lind has not set a trial date. Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, sought Thursday to set a trial date for the court martial in June, arguing that his client has spent 635 days in pretrial detention. The prosecution said that although it would be ready for trial by April, a reasonable trial calendar would have the proceedings begin on Aug. 3.

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