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Bradley Manning to return to Fort Meade for WikiLeaks case

Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, the former intelligence analyst awaiting a court-martial on charges of aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act, will return to Fort Meade this month for his arraignment, the Army said Thursday.

Manning, who is accused of giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, appeared at the Army base in Maryland in December for a preliminary hearing. The arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 23.

The decision on when and where his court-martial will be held is up to a military judge, who will be appointed by the Army Trial Judiciary. Fort Meade is one of three installations in the Military District of Washington equipped to host such a proceeding.

Manning's appearance for the Article 32 hearing in December drew media and demonstrators from around the world.

Manning, 24, is accused of sending raw field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world and a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad to be published online by WikiLeaks.

If convicted of the charges, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Aiding the enemy is a capital offense, but Army prosecutors have said they would not seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors at the Article 32 hearing called computer forensic investigators who testified that materials uploaded to WikiLeaks came from computers on which Manning worked.

Manning's attorneys sought to portray him as a troubled young man who struggled with gender identity, was isolated from his fellow soldiers and should not have been given access to the classified materials.

Manning, who lived in Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before he enlisted in the Army in 2007, attended the hearing but did not testify.

It was his first public appearance since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.

Anti-war activists say the footage of the 2007 Apache helicopter attack that he is alleged to have released appears to show evidence of a war crime.

The attack in Baghdad left 12 dead, including a Reuters journalist and his driver. In the video, released by WikiLeaks as "Collateral Murder," the American helicopter crew can be heard laughing and referring to Iraqis as "dead bastards."

Manning's supporters say whoever released the footage is a hero who should be protected as a whistle-blower.

Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, the commander of the Military District of Washington, decided last week to send Manning to court-martial after reviewing testimony and arguments from the Article 32 hearing.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

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