The treatment of Bradley Manning, the 23-year old US soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks, shows the ruthlessness with which the US defends its global power. Yet to be convicted of any crime, Manning has spent has spent over seven months in 23 hours a day solitary confinement and is denied even a pillow and sheets for his bed.

Inside his cell he is watched constantly, required to respond to guards every five minutes, all day, by saying “yes”—but guards are banned from having any conversation with him. In his one hour a day of “exercise time” he is simply “taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk,” “normally just walks figure eights in the room,” according to his lawyer, former US Amy Major David Coombs. Yet he has not shown any violent or uncooperative behaviour in detention.

His conditions are considered so damaging that the UN’s top official in charge of torture is investigating them. According to an article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law last year, “solitary confinement is recognised as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”

Bradley Manning is facing up to 52 years in jail. His treatment appears an attempt to send a message to any other US personnel considering leaking state secrets.

In the US, supporters have rallied outside the Marine Corps base where Manning is being held. Wikileaks has donated $50,000 to his defence fund. The courage he has shown to help make the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan public deserves our support.

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