President Barack Obama has commuted noted whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, and Manning will be released on May 17 of this year. Human rights defenders, government watchdogs, and LGBTQ advocates have long been pushing Obama to commute Manning’s 35-year sentence, particularly as Manning, who is transgender and is being denied appropriate healthcare in military prison, has attempted suicide twice in the past six months.
Wikileaks said last week that Julian Assange, site’s publisher, would agree to extradition to the US if Ms Manning were freed.
Among the materials leaked by Ms Manning, who served as an Army intelligence analyst and was deployed to Iraq, was video of an American helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians and two reporters.
Ms Manning also leaked diplomatic cables containing sensitive information. US officials said the leaks harmed US foreign policy and strained relations with allies.
Edward Snowden took to Twitter on Tuesday to thank Mrs Manning’s supporters, and Mr Obama for enabling her release.
Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama. https://t.co/IeumTasRNN
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 17, 2017
Snowden also thanked Ms Manning “for what you did for everyone”, and urged her to “stay strong” for the next five months.
Wikileaks called the news a “victory”. Assange released a statement, but did not say whether he now planned to turn himself over to US authorities.
“Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible,” he said.
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years, and also faces sexual assault allegations in Sweden, which he denies.
“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning, in a statement.
“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and has been denied access to medically necessary health care,” Strangio added. “This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, who has been an ardent supporter of Chelsea’s and speaks to her on the phone on a regular basis, also released a statement.
“Chelsea’s release is massive victory for free speech, human rights, and democracy,” Greer said. “As someone who has become friends with Chelsea over the last year, but has never had a chance to see her face or give her a hug, I’m overjoyed that she will be able to share her beautiful self with the world. She has so much to offer, and her freedom will be a testament to the power of grassroots organizing. I’m so excited for the world to get to know her as the compassionate, intelligent, and kind person who she is.”