On Friday, U.S. government prosecutors cross-examined Pfc. Bradley Manning at his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade. Manning testified Thursday and Friday as a part of a motion brought by his defense arguing that the detained soldier suffered “unlawful pretrial punishment.”
The prosecution produced grim props in an attempt to justify Manning’s stringent detainment regime as a necessary means to keep the soldier from committing suicide. The chief prosecution lawyer, according to the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington’s courtroom reports, held up a knotted pink bedsheet — a makeshift noose Manning reportedly fashioned in U.S. military custody in Kuwait, just days after his arrest. “The prosecutor also produced a second noose made from sandbag ties and two metal objects that he suggested Manning may have intended to use to harm himself, though the soldier said he did not recollect those items,” reported Pilkington.
On Thursday, while being examined by his defense attorney, Manning recounted psychological struggles and harsh prison conditions during his 918 days in U.S. military custody, both in Kuwait and at Quantico. He admitted having suicidal thoughts while kept in what he called an “animal cage” in Kuwait, but testified — in line with the reports of Quantico psychiatrists — that he was not a suicide risk during his detainment in the U.S. military brig and thus should have been taken off prevention-of-injury status (under which he was not allowed a regular blanket or pillow, and was forced to undergo regular, humiliating guard checks).
As Pilkington noted:
Under questioning from his own defence lawyer, David Coombs, he painted a picture of a Kafkaesque world in which the more he tried to convince Marines authorities that he had recovered and was no longer a suicide risk, the more he was treated as though he were vulnerable and put under harsh restrictions that expert witnesses this week described as worse than Guantanamo Bay or even death row.
In a weak line of questioning the prosecution attempted to show the comforts Manning enjoyed while locked in a 6-by-8-foot windowless cell more than 23 hours each day. While evidencing only the most modest of privileges (access to books, certain mail), the questions teased out interesting tidbits about the 24-year-old soldier’s tastes. Kevin Gosztola, who has already commented on the defendant’s intelligent testimony, reported Friday, “The books he asked for included Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’ and a book that has played a role in this case, David Finkel’s ‘The Good Soldiers,’ which the defense has said contains a verbatim transcript of the ‘Collateral Murder‘ incident.”
Manning also asked and was authorized to receive mail from old Salon friend Glenn Greenwald.