Bradley Manning, the United States soldier being held in connection with leaking government information to WikiLeaks, has spoken out directly for the first time about his holding conditions in an 11-page legal letter. Beginning late last week, Manning has been stripped naked every night and forced to remain that way through a morning inspection, ostensibly for his personal safety, though he has not been placed on suicide watch. In Manning’s own words, he has been “left to languish under the unduly harsh conditions of max [security] custody” at a military brig Quantico, Virginia, in what he says amounts to “unlawful pre-trial punishment.”
The Guardian provides excerpts from the letter, which also has Manning describing the days in January when he was subjected to suicide watch. “I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness,” he writes.
“I became upset. Out of frustration, I clenched my hair with my fingers and yelled: ‘Why are you doing this to me? Why am I being punished? I have done nothing wrong.'”
Manning also describes his current orders to strip naked daily:
“The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder-width apart. I stood at parade rest for about three minutes … The [brig supervisor] and the other guards walked past my cell. He looked at me, paused for a moment, then continued to the next cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked.”
This all despite reports that call Manning “respectful, courteous and well spoken” and multiple evaluations that declare he “does not have any suicidal feelings at this time.”
The UN has launched an inquiry into whether the conditions constitute torture, while Amnesty International has appealed to the U.S. government for more humane treatment. Pfc. Manning’s entire letter can be read here.