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Chelsea Manning ordered back to jail for refusing to testify before grand jury

Chelsea Manning ordered back to jail
Chelsea Manning held in contempt, ordered back to jail 00:40

Alexandria, Va. — Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning is for the second time being held in contempt of court and going to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating .

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered her jailed at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, where she was sent in March for refusing the initial subpoena to testify. She was released May 9 when the grand jury's term expired, but was issued a second subpoena before the current grand jury.

Trenga said Manning could be held for up to 18 months if she doesn't comply with the subpoena. He also said Manning would be fined $500 per day beginning in 30 days, with the fine increasing to $1,000 a day after 60 days.

Manning is most notably known for leaking State Department documents and cables to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2010. She was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013, though she had her sentenced commuted by former-President Barack Obama and released in 2017 after serving seven years.  

"Ultimately this is an attempt to place me back in confinement," Manning said at a press conference outside the courthouse before the hearing. "I think that this ultimately the goal here is to relitigate the court martial from my perspective. They didn't like the outcome. I got out so this is a way of placing me back into confinement."

Chelsea Manning addresses reporters before entering the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 16, 2019. Getty

Manning's attorneys attempted to challenge the subpoena during a sealed hearing at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria today, but Trenga said he was not persuaded by their arguments.

During the contempt hearing in open court, federal prosecutors argued that further incarceration is the only way to get Manning to comply. Her lawyer's proposed alternatives of house arrest and more fines were denied.

"Manning holds the keys to the jailhouse door. She can get out of jail at any time if she complies," Thomas Traxler, an assistant U.S. attorney, said during the hearing.

In her press conference before the hearing, Manning was adamant in her refusal and reiterated her opposition to the grand jury system. She said any more jail time would do nothing to get her to comply with the subpoena.

"I believe my entire life proves I have a philosophical position," Manning told Trenga toward the end of the hearing. "I would rather starve to death than change my opinion to this regard."

Trenga immediately replied that "it was unfortunate" it got to this point, and that there's nothing "dishonorable" about fulfilling the duties of testifying.

Concerns about resources for Manning's medical treatments and mental health at Alexandra were raised, though G. Zach Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney, said they have "bent over backwards to accommodate her needs." Trenga said any medical concerns from Manning should be brought directly to the court.

A U.S. marshal brought Manning to the Alexandria Detention Center after Trenga's ruling. Manning supporters immediately voiced their displeasure with Trenga's decision outside the courthouse.

Manning's attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said the move was another instance of the Trump administration's "unwinding" of Obama's legacy. Obama commuted Manning's sentence just days before leaving office.

Terwilliger, the prosecutor, would not comment on the grand jury's investigation into Wikileaks, saying only the government had a "lawfully predicated reason" for seeking Manning's testimony. Assange was indicted on charges of computer hacking and conspiracy in April.

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