- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning sought relief Thursday from monetary sanctions imposed for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.

Lawyers for Manning said they planned to propose guidelines for a federal court judge to hold a hearing to assess her ability to pay fines for being found in civil contempt.

Manning, a former Army analyst, was ordered last month to incur daily fines until she complies with a subpoena compelling her appearance in front of a federal grand jury empaneled in Alexandria, Virginia, where the Department of Justice has for years led the government’s criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and its publisher, Julian Assange.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ordered Manning on May 16 to “purge herself of contempt” within 30 days or else begin incurring daily fines of $500 set to double next month.

“The government, and maybe the general public, think that I have access to resources just because I am a public figure,” Manning said in a statement. “But that’s just not true. Making money has never been my priority.

“I definitely feel the costs of these sanctions, but I never expected to have a comfortable life, and I would rather be in debt forever than betray my principles,” she said.

Manning plans to give the court access to documents demonstrating she is unable to pay the fines partially due to her ongoing incarceration and argue for them to be reduced or vacated altogether, her lawyers added.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria referred to a previous court filing entered by the Justice Department when reached for comment.

In a filing last week, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger said the government is not opposed to Manning producing financial documents for the court to asses her ability to pay the sanctions.

“Manning, of course, can easily avoid the sanctions by doing what the Court has ordered her to do — by testifying in front of the grand jury,” Mr. Terwilliger wrote.

Manning has said she will continue refusing to testify, and her attorneys expect the sanctions could ultimately total up to nearly half a million dollars.

Manning, 31, admittedly provided WikiLeaks with a trove of classified military and diplomatic material later released online by the website in 2010. She was convicted by an Army judge in 2013 of related crimes and ultimately served seven years in military prison before former President Barack Obama commuted most of her sentence. She has since given multiple media appearances and was scheduled to release a book prior to being recently reincarcerated.

Mr. Assange, 47, was charged last month by prosecutors in Alexandria with multiple felonies related to the material provided by Manning, meanwhile. He is currently jailed in London fighting a U.S. extradition request.

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