In what may well be his last major act before leaving office, President Barack Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence for leaking state documents to Wikileaks seven years ago.
Ms Manning, 29, is a transgender US Army private, who was born Bradley Manning. She is now due for release on May 17th, rather than in 2045.
Pte Manning was sentenced to 35 years in jail in jail when she was found guilty of leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks in one of the biggest ever leaks of classified documentation in America’s history.
Mr Obama’s commutation means that Ms Manning’s jail term has been vastly reduced. However, he stopped short of conceding to campaigners’ demands and granting her a pardon.
Ms Manning’s uncle Kevin Fox said her family where “over the moon” as they had not expected her case to be considered at all for at least another three or four years. Ms Manning also has British connections, having lived in Wales for four years when she was a teenager. The Welsh side of her family said they were also overjoyed and would welcome her for a visit. Her lawyer David Coombs described Mr Obama’s decision as an act of mercy, adding that his client would be hugely relieved.
Tried to kill herself
Her commutation follows two suicide attempts at the male military prison where she is incarcerated, at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Ms Manning also went on hunger strike last year in a bid to get gender transition treatment.
In total, Mr Obama has granted commutation of jail terms to 209 people, and pardons to a further 64. However, Edward Snowden, who is still in Russia having been granted temporary asylum, was not granted a pardon. Mr Snowdon, a former National Security Agency contractor, leaked details about mass surveillance programmes before leaving the US.
A number of Republicans have slammed Mr Obama’s decision, saying that it will only encourage further leaks of sensitive information.