The U.S. soldier, who admitted handing over a trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks, asked a military judge on Monday to toss out several charges against him on grounds prosecutors lack evidence.
Bradley Manning’s lawyers urged the court to dismiss four charges, including allegations that he violated his access to a military computer, stole government “property,” disclosed e-mail addresses and aided the enemy when he gave classified files to the anti-secrecy website.
The move came as Mr. Manning’s counsel began to present their case, hoping to counter the prosecution’s portrayal of the U.S. Army private as an arrogant traitor who knew the documents could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda.
Mr. Manning, 25, has admitted to giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret military intelligence files and diplomatic cables in the worst leak of classified information in American history.
But he is contesting 21 charges, including the most serious count that he knew he was “aiding the enemy” by funnelling the files to the website.
The defense played a video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that went viral in 2010 after Mr. Manning passed on the footage to WikiLeaks, which released the clip under the title “Collateral Murder.”
The video shows two Apache helicopters blasting away at a group of Iraqi men whom the crew mistakenly believed were carrying weapons.
Two of the dozen people killed in the assault were Iraqis working for the Reuters news agency.
The prosecution rested its case last week but suffered an embarrassing setback after acknowledging the military had lost the contract Mr. Manning signed laying out the terms of his access to classified information.
As the trial entered its sixth week, the first defense witness told the court that Mr. Manning was one of the most talented members of an intelligence analysis unit, excelling at “data mining.”
“He was our best analyst by far when it came to developing products,” said Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Ehresman, who oversaw intelligence assessments produced by Mr. Manning and other enlisted soldiers.
Unlike other troops who often needed assignments to be spelled out in explicit detail, Mr. Manning “would come up with exactly what you were looking for,” he said.
Mr. Manning’s lawyers insist their client did not break any rules governing access to computer databases.
If convicted of “aiding the enemy,” Mr. Manning could face a maximum sentence of life in prison. — AFP