U.S. WikiLeaks judge overrules objections on classified testimony

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The judge hearing the court-martial of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks, on Tuesday overruled defense attorneys' objections over classified testimony against their client.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind made her ruling as the defense presents its side in the trial's sentencing phase. Attorneys for Manning are expected to read a statement from him as they conclude their case, possibly on Wednesday, and sentencing could follow shortly after.

Manning, a 25-year-old private first class, faces the possibility of 90 years in prison after being convicted July 30 on 20 charges, including espionage and theft, in the biggest release of classified files in U.S. history.

Lind overruled three of five defense objections to classified information presented during court sessions that were closed to the public and media. The trial included regular discussions in closed sessions of classified information by the judge and attorneys for both sides.

The judge did not reveal the information but said it was proper "aggravation evidence" of the damage the releases to WikiLeaks, a pro-transparency website, did to U.S. foreign relations.

She upheld the other two objections, saying the information presented by military officials was speculative. She said she would not consider the speculative evidence in assessing a sentence.

The prosecution had tried to show damage that Manning's leaks of more than 700,000 files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables had done to the United States.

Manning's lawyers started their sentencing arguments on Monday and have scheduled a dozen witnesses. The attorneys have contended that the Army was negligent in allowing Manning access to classified documents despite warnings about his behavior.

Manning, a low-level intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested in 2010. Defense lawyers have portrayed Manning, who is gay, as naive but well-intentioned and struggling with his sexual identity when he arrived in Iraq.

Manning's court-martial has drawn international scrutiny, and the trove of documents he provided catapulted WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, into the spotlight. (Editing by Ian Simpson and Andrew Hay)

Updated Date: Aug 14, 2013 00:30 AM

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