By Medina Roshan
FORT MEADE, Md., Nov 29 (Reuters) - A U.S. Army private
facing court-martial for allegedly leaking secret documents to
the WikiLeaks website took the witness stand on Thursday at a
pre-trial hearing to make his first public statements since his
arrest in Iraq in 2010.
Bradley Manning's testimony came on the third day of a
hearing to determine whether his case should proceed to a full
Manning has offered to plead guilty to less serious offenses
than those with which he has been charged, according to his
If Manning's case proceeds to trial and he is convicted of
all the security breach charges against him, the private could
face life imprisonment.
Charges include stealing records belonging to the United
States and wrongfully causing them to be published on the
Internet and aiding enemies of the United States, identified by
prosecutors as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate
of the militant network founded by the late Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors have alleged that Manning, without
authorization, disclosed hundreds of thousands of U.S.
diplomatic cables, military reports and video of a military
helicopter attack in Iraq in which two Reuters journalists were
WikiLeaks has never confirmed that Manning was the source of
any documents it released.
In pre-trial litigation, prosecutors have presented
testimony that legal experts say could be used to build a case
that Manning had been in email contact with Julian Assange,
WikiLeaks' Australian-born founder.
Nearly six months ago, Assange, who faces extradition to
Sweden from Britain for questioning in a sexual molestation
case, took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Assange and his supporters have said the Swedish case
against him could be part of a secret plot to have him shipped
for trial to the United States and either executed or imprisoned
at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
U.S. officials have denied those assertions. But they have
acknowledged that a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia,
has been collecting evidence about WikiLeaks and some of its
activists. Officials have not ruled out U.S. criminal charges
Earlier on Thursday, Assange played down reports that his
health was declining after Ecuadorean officials said he was
suffering from a chronic lung ailment
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