US Army soldier Chelsea Manning has been released from prison seven years after being convicted of leaking thousands of diplomatic cables and confidential military files to Wikileaks.
A spokesperson for the United States Army told the BBC on Wednesday that Manning had officially left Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in accordance with military parole rules. Her release comes after former US President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence in January.
Manning, 28, is a transgender soldier who was arrested in 2010 and was found guilty in 2013 on 20 charges in relation to the leaks, which included crimes of espionage.
Despite this, she was acquitted of charges relating to aiding of an enemy of the state. The leaks came while she was serving in the US Defence Force as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
The leaked files included video footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007 and sensitive messages between US diplomats. It is widely considered as the biggest breach of classified US government information in history.
Chelsea Manning had perhaps the most unjust sentence in the history of the military justice system for exposing Iraq war crimes.— Gilluis Pérez (@Gilluis_Perez) May 17, 2017
Chelsea Manning finally free. She's a hero and her sacrifice of her freedom for the last 7 years will never be forgotten.— Leeann Clarkson (@leeannward) May 17, 2017
Manning will continue her active army duty unpaid while outside of jail, with her military court conviction still under appeal. If that appeal is denied, she could be dishonourably discharged from the US Army.
The focus of an international debate about government secrecy, the now-famous whistleblower originally defended her decision to leak the information to Wikileaks, but did apologise for "hurting the US", saying she had mistakenly believed she could "change the world for the better," according to the BBC.
The release comes after Manning was sentenced to 14 days in solitary confinement as punishment for attempting suicide and keeping a banned book in her cell, Reuters reported in September 2016. She also went on a hunger strike last year until US Defence Force authorities negotiated with her over gender transition treatment.
Chelsea Manning was & is a brave individual who held the government accountable for its actions at home & abroad. She changed the world.— Gilluis Pérez (@Gilluis_Perez) May 17, 2017
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