- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2019

Chelsea Manning is slated to face daily fines for contempt of court due to a Saturday deadline for the jailed WikiLeaks source to start cooperating with federal investigators.

Manning, a 31-year-old activist and former Army analyst, was found in civil contempt on May 16 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia, where the Department of Justice has for years helmed the government’s criminal investigation into the WikiLeaks website and its founder, Julian Assange.

The second contempt ruling issued against her in nearly as many months, Manning was ordered jailed and given until this weekend to cooperate without facing monetary sanctions.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ordered that “if Chelsea Manning does not purge herself of contempt within 30 days of this Order, she shall incur a conditional fine of $500 per day until such time as she purges herself of contempt.”

The fines will double next month to $1,000 per day under the judge’s order.

Manning’s lawyers filed a motion late last month asking the court to reconsider the sanctions, calling them definitionally punitive rather than coercive. The government disagreed in a filing of its own Friday but proposed that Manning provide evidence of her financial records to see whether a hearing should be held for the court to asses her ability to pay. A ruling from the judge was not docketed before the deadline to avoid sanctions was set to expire over the weekend.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria declined to comment when reached by The Washington Times over the weekend, and an attorney representing Manning in the matter did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Manning was sentenced in 2013 to spend 35 years in military prison for convictions related to sharing classified documents with WikiLeaks that were later published online. She had most of her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama in early 2017 and was released that May.

Manning has said that she is opposed to the principle of the grand jury process and that she already provided sufficient testimony about her WikiLeaks disclosure during her 2013 court-martial.

Federal prosecutors in Alexandria unsealed a criminal indictment last month charging Mr. Assange, 47, with 18 counts related to Manning’s disclosures and WikiLeaks. He is currently behind bars in London fighting a U.S. extradition request and the possibility of spending decades imprisoned if convicted.

In the government’s filing Friday, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger wrote that Manning’s testimony remains “essential” to an ongoing investigation into charges or targets not included in last month’s indictment charging Mr. Assange.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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