In a major victory for activists, the White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama will commute the vast majority of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence.
Manning will be released exactly five months from now, on May 17, instead of in 2045, reports The New York Times. That accounts for about 27 years that Obama has commuted. Manning rose to fame (or notoriety, depending on who you ask) after she was found guilty of a 2010 leak that revealed worldwide American military and diplomatic activities via WikiLeaks.
The move is sure to enrage some conservatives, many of whom have called Manning a threat to national security and said that she should be tried for treason to face possible execution. It also, not inconsequentially, saves Manning, a former soldier, from 27 more years of living as a woman in a men’s prison. In 2016, Manning’s situation resulted in two suicide attempts, and her time spent in solitary confinement was the subject of accusations of cruel and unusual punishment by the U.N..
Many activists who had been calling for this for sometime naturally took to Twitter to celebrate the decision.
The commutation of her sentence is the second bit of good news that Manning has received in the past few months: The government announcing it will provide her with gender transition surgery back in September.
Obama’s commutation is being seen as a victory for human rights and the recognition of transgender individuals. Some Twitter users are already looking ahead to the responses of Republican leaders, such as President-elect Trump.
Obama’s decision comes less than a week after Edward Snowden pleaded with him to release her.
And it’s only four days since Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said he would agree to a U.S. extradition if Obama commuted Manning’s sentence.
It’s doubtful that the president was influenced much by Assange’s offer, since the plan to release Manning has likely been in the works for more than four days.
WikiLeaks has yet to comment on Obama’s decision, and it’s unclear whether Assange will follow through on his promise — if indeed he ever intended to do so. If he does follow through, the implications of Obama’s move could prove even broader than they currently seem.
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