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Will President Obama commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning?

Will President Obama commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning?
Chelsea Manning. Illustration by Alicia Neal, in cooperation with Manning, commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, April 23, 2014.Photo: Alicia Neal

Chelsea Manning remains locked up, at press time, at Leavenworth military prison, several hours after a report that the transgender ex-soldier was on President Obama’s short list for sentence commutation.

Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst serving a 35-year sentence for leaking 700,000 classified military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, has twice tried to commit suicide, and went on a hunger strike until military brass approved her request for gender affirmation surgery.

The ACLU has petitioned for her release on the basis of time served, pleading that she needed better medical care to treat her gender dysphoria, which many transgender individuals experience and often causes anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. The petition crossed the 100,000 signature mark which earns it a review by the Obama administration.

Even disgraced NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who fled rather than be captured for leaking classified data, appealed to the president for her release, via Twitter.

According to NBC News, the word from the White House could come at any time.

Manning has been receiving hormone therapy in prison and is allowed to wear women’s underwear, but she cannot grow her hair beyond what is standard for male prisoners and a military doctor recently refused to change her Army medical records to reflect her identification as female.

Her aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC,  “I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced.” Referring to the change in commander-in-chief, she said, “I do think it’s the last hope for a while.”

“I would say this is someone who’s never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed as some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision,” Deborah Manning told NBC. “And it’s time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world.”

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