By Raf Sanchez, Washington, 8:47PM GMT 12 Jan 2012
The case of Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of handing hundreds of thousands of secret military documents to WikiLeaks, has been recommended to proceed to a full military court martial.
The 24-year-old soldier faces life imprisonment if convicted of aiding the enemy, the most serious of the 36 charges brought against him by the US military.
He appeared before an Army court at Fort Meade, Maryland for the first time in December, a year and a half after his arrest in Iraq in may of 2010.
The Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a pre-trial appearance, heard of a young and emotionally anguished soldier who was ill-suited for his work as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
The hearing was told that Pfc Manning had sent a superior a photograph of himself dressed as a woman and often lashed out at other soldiers at Camp Liberty, a military installation near Baghdad.
Over the course of the week-long hearing, his defence team, led by David Coombs, a fiery civilian lawyer, pummeled the government’s case but never directly denied that the young soldier was responsible for giving WikiLeaks the contents largest intelligence leak in US history.
The hearing was presided over by an investigating officer, Lt Col Paul Almanza, who today recommended that the case proceed to a full court martial, an unsurprising verdict given the amount of evidence laid out against Pfc Manning.
In a statement, the US military said: “The investigating officer concluded that the charges and specifications are in the proper form and that reasonable grounds exist to believe that the accused committed the offenses alleged. He recommended that the charges be referred to a general court martial.”
The recommendation will now be passed to the Special Court Martial Convening Authority which will make a decision based on Lt Col Almanza’s report.
If the case proceeds to a full court martial, Pfc Manning’s fate will be decided by a military jury.