Snapped on camera after more than a year in military confinement, he cut a diminutive figure as he was marched to his pre-trial court hearing between two Army officers. Bradley Manning, the military intelligence analyst charged with the biggest leak of state secrets in United States history, faces the prospect a court martial and consequently, a higher likelihood of a lifetime prison sentence.

At the hearings that were recently completed in Fort Meade, Maryland, Mr. Manning's attorney David Coombs had argued that there was a lack of adequate security at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in Iraq, where Mr. Manning worked. He also centred defence arguments on the Army's insufficient response to his client's emotional problems.

Defence argument

On the first day of the pre-trial hearing Mr. Coombs challenged the process itself and asked Investigating Officer Colonel Paul Almanza to recuse himself on the grounds that the latter was a Department of Justice prosecutor in the case against WikiLeaks, the online whistleblower that published a vast trove of U.S. State Department cables.

Mr. Coombs went on to argue that the U.S. Army's charges against Mr. Manning were excessive and he reportedly made a plea to reduce the charges from 22 to three.

One of the most serious charges that Mr. Manning is facing is “aiding the enemy”, which is a capital offence. However, prosecutors and the investigating officer in the pre-trial hearing have concurred that they will not seek the death penalty but life imprisonment for Mr. Manning.

Following Col. Alamanza's recommendation that Mr. Manning be sent to a full court martial, Jeff Patterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network said he was “disappointed” by the development but was “far from surprised.”

“I sat in that courtroom and watched a Department of Justice employee pretending to be an impartial judge,” Mr. Patterson was quoted as saying. He further hinted that the prosecution had been able to present all its desired witnesses, but had blocked the defence team from calling “all but a few” witnesses that it had requested.

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