WikiLeaks source Pvt. Chelsea Manning said Thursday that Army officials are considering charging her for attempting to commit suicide earlier this month inside her Fort Leavenworth prison cell.
Manning, 28, is being investigated for charges of “resisting the force cell move team,” “prohibited property” and “conduct which threatens” in connection with her July 5 suicide attempt, according to her attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union.
If convicted, Manning risks punishment ranging from indefinite solitary confinement to an extra nine years behind bars, the ACLU said.
“It is deeply troubling that Chelsea is now being subjected to an investigation and possible punishment for her attempt to take her life. The government has long been aware of Chelsea’s distress associated with the denial of medical care related to her gender transition and yet delayed and denied the treatment recognized as necessary,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said in a statement.
“It is unconscionable and we hope that the investigation is immediately ended and that she is given the health care that she needs to recover,” Mr. Strangio said.
Manning is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence inside the Forth Leavenworth disciplinary barracks as a result of convictions stemming from her role with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website.
WikiLeaks generated controversy this week after publishing a trove of internal emails taken from the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention.
A military judge found Manning guilty in 2013 of charges including espionage, theft and computer hacking after she supplied WikiLeaks with classified government and military documents she stole while serving in Iraq as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army.
Following her arrest outside of Baghdad in 2010, Manning was detained at a makeshift prison cell in the Kuwaiti desert before being transferred to the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia and ultimately Fort Leavenworth.
Manning told military prosecutors during pretrial testimony that she fashioned a noose out of bedsheets while being held in Kuwait, and for a time was classified as a suicide risk and kept in solitary at Quantico. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture later said it believed the U.S. had subjected Manning to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” during pretrial confinement, and a military judge ultimately took time off the solder’s sentence as a result of that treatment.
Formerly known as Bradley Manning, the soldier came out as a transgender woman one day after being sentenced in 2013. The following year, her attorneys sued the Department of Defense so that she could be adequately treated behind bars for gender dysphoria, “the medical diagnosis given to individuals whose gender identity — their innate sense of being male or female — differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, causing clinically significant distress,” according to the lawsuit.
Manning’s lawyers acknowledged in court documents that she “will suffer continued pain, depression and anxiety and is at an extremely high risk of self-castration and suicidality” if her medical concerns were neglected. The Pentagon has since allowed Manning to receive hormone-replacement therapy while behind bars, although she remains incarcerated in an all-male prison.
Mr. Strangio, the ACLU attorney, told Huffington Post that Manning has no recollection of her recent suicide attempt and said on Twitter that it is a “common carceral practice” for inmates to be investigated for such conduct.
The U.S. Army did not immediately reply to Huffington Post’s requests for comment.
WikiLeaks publisher and co-founder Julian Assange said previously that the documents Manning is convicted of supplying “highlighted astonishing examples of U.S. subversion of the democratic process around the world, systematic evasion of accountability for atrocities and killings and many other abuses.”