ACLU, LGBT groups ask Obama to approve Chelsea Manning’s clemency request

Jessie Hellmann, The Hill. December 5, 2016

The American Civil Liberties Union and more than a dozen gay and transgender rights groups are urging President Obama to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning so she can have a chance at a “real, meaningful life.”

“The sole relief that Ms. Manning is seeking is to be released from military prison after serving over six years of confinement — longer than any whistleblower in the history of our country,” representatives from the ACLU and more than a dozen other groups wrote in a letter to Obama on Monday.

“If approved, Ms. Manning will have a first chance to live a real, meaningful life as the person she was born to be.”

The ACLU claims the government has “continually fought” Manning’s efforts to be treated with “basic dignity” by denying her access to medical treatment related to gender dysphoria and opposing her request to be referred to with female pronouns.

The former Army analyst was sentenced to 35 years in prison after leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Manning, who is transgender, asked Obama for clemency in November, citing harsh treatment in jail, which she said led to suicide attempts.

In a personal statement Manning included with her lawyers’ clemency request, she wrote that she needs help and is “still not getting it.”

“I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life,” she wrote.

“When the [United States Disciplinary Barracks] placed me in solitary confinement as punishment for the attempted suicide, I tried it again because the feeling of hopelessness was so immense. This has served as a reminder to me that any lack of treatment can kill me, so I must keep fighting a battle that I wish every day would just end.”

Manning’s lawyers argued she has already served the longest sentence of “any other whistleblower in American history” and that Obama should be influenced by the harsh conditions she has been subjected to while in prison.

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