US soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case granted name change

(REUTERS) - Former US soldier Bradley Manning, who is serving 35 years in prison for turning over classified files to WikiLeaks, can change the name Bradley to Chelsea to reflect her desire to be treated as a woman, a judge in Kansas ruled on Wednesday.

Manning's name is now legally Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, according to the decision handed down by Leavenworth County District Judge David King.

Manning will be issued a new birth certificate to reflect the name change. Manning's gender remains male but Manning identifies as a woman.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Manning said she hopes her actions help lead the military and other institutions to recognise the needs of transgendered individuals, including a need for specialised healthcare. "If I'm successful in obtaining access to trans healthcare, it will not only be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will also open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives," Manning said.

Manning was sentenced to prison in August for violating the Espionage Act and other offenses such as leaking more than 700,000 classified military and government documents, plus battlefield video, in the biggest breach of secret data in the nation's history.

Military parole rules could allow Manning to be out of prison in seven years, according to her legal counsel. She is serving her sentence in all-male detention facilities at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Manning has repeatedly stated her desire to live as a woman and has requested hormone replacement therapy in prison, but so far Army officials have denied those requests, and said that Manning will continue to be treated as a man despite the name change.

"He is still the same gender as when he came in," said prison spokesman George Marcec. No hormone therapy or related treatments are available at the prison, Marcec said.

While working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010, Manning gave the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Manning said at trial that she wanted to inform Americans about US warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and questioned the morality of US actions.