VIDEO

Verdict on WikiLeaks source Manning set for Tuesday

Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, is escorted out of court after the second day of deliberation in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland July 28, 2013. United States / Maryland (AFP) - A verdict is expected Tuesday in the trial of Am
Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, is escorted out of court after the second day of deliberation in his military trial at Fort Meade, Maryland July 28, 2013. United States / Maryland (AFP) - A verdict is expected Tuesday in the trial of American soldier Bradley Manning, who faces life imprisonment for leaking a massive trove of secret US government files to WikiLeaks. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

FORT MEADE, United States / Maryland (AFP) - A verdict is expected on Tuesday in the trial of American soldier Bradley Manning, who faces life imprisonment for leaking a massive trove of secret US government files to WikiLeaks.

US military judge Denise Lind plans to issue her judgment at 1700 GMT, her office said Monday.

Manning was serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq when he sent the anti-secrecy website a vast cache of secret diplomatic cables and classified military reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 25-year-old has admitted to leaking some 700,000 documents, pleading guilty to 10 lesser charges, including espionage and computer fraud, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

But Manning has denied other charges, including the most serious one - that he knowingly helped enemies of the United States, most notably Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

If convicted of that charge of "aiding the enemy," he could spend the rest of his life in jail. But even without it, the other charges could add up to 154 years imprisonment. The sentencing phase of the trial could begin as early as Wednesday.

To find Manning guilty of "aiding the enemy," the judge must be convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the soldier knew the documents he leaked could end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda.

In closing arguments, defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was no traitor but a "young, naive and good-intentioned" citizen who wanted to encourage public debate about US foreign policy.

In a preliminary hearing in February, Manning read a long letter justifying his actions, in which he spoke of the "bloodlust" exhibited by a US Apache helicopter crew who gunned down a group of Iraqis in Baghdad.

But the prosecution insists Manning recklessly betrayed his uniform and his country by leaking documents he knew Al-Qaeda would see and use.

"He was not a troubled young soul, he was a determined soldier with the knowledge, ability and desire to harm the United States in its war effort," lead prosecutor Major Ashden Fein told the court.

"Your honour, he was not a whistleblower, he was a traitor." Manning's supporters argue a conviction would be a huge blow for press freedoms in the United States and would deter future whistleblowers from exposing government wrongdoing.

In a statement on Monday, the Bradley Manning Support Network called it an "ominous sign" when Judge Lind, they claimed, "altered important charges last week in order to assist prosecutors ahead of her verdict."

According to the group, which cited defence lawyers, three of five theft charges were modified in their wording, now including language that refers to information theft.

Without being allowed to return witnesses to the stand, at this stage of the trial, to question them on the newly worded charges, the defence lawyers are asking the judge to dismiss them.

Under the rules of a court martial, they said in a statement, "a military judge may declare a mistrial when 'manifestly necessary in the interest of justice because of circumstances arising during the proceedings which cast substantial doubt upon the fairness of the proceedings.'"