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Marines Replace Commander in Charge of Detention of Bradley Manning, Accused WikiLeaker

An undated photo of Army Spc. Bradley Manning.
An undated photo of Army Spc. Bradley Manning. AP

One week ago, David Coombs, the main lawyer for accused WikiLeaks document leaker Bradley Manning, filed a complaintwith military officials against Quantico Base Commander James Averhart.

Coombs accused Averhart of abusing his "discretion" by arbitrarily choosing harsh - some have said tortuous - confinement conditions for Manning, who is housed in the Quantico brig.

On Wednesday, the Marines replaced Averhart as Quantico's commander with Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes, CNN reports.

A base spokesman claims the complaint and Averhart's removal are not related, and that the decision to replace Averhart was made back in October, CNN reports.

Coombs said earlier that Averhart, against the recommendations of two psychiatrists, chose to place Manning under suicide watch last week, which allows guards to force Manning to "remain in his cell for 24 hours a day," be "stripped of all clothing with the exception of his underwear," and have "his prescription eyeglasses taken away."

The suicide watch was removed after about 48 hours when Coombs petitioned the Army Staff Judge Advocate's Office, which forced the Averhart to downgrade Manning's confinement to "Prevention of Injury" (POI) watch.

Special Report: WikiLeaks

Coombs has been struggling with Manning's confinement and trial status for months now. Because Manning is being held under such harsh conditions without having been charged, Coombs has tried all manner of legal recourse, including filing a motion for Manning's release, a motion to dismiss the trial because of its slow start, and even a request for a speedy trial last week.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture in Geneva for the United Nations, received a complaint at the end of December from one of Manning's supporters alleging conditions in the brig amount to torture, said a UN spokesperson. At the time of the complaint, Manning was under POI watch, which is only slightly harsh than suicide watch.

Manning remains on POI watch to this day.

The U.N. has begun investigating and could ask the United States to stop any violations it finds.

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