Chelsea Manning was again behind bars on Thursday night after she was jailed for a second time for contempt of court, having refused to cooperate with a grand jury.
A defiant Manning told Judge Anthony Trenga in a federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, that she would “rather starve to death” than do what the state insisted and give testimony before the grand jury. Having already served 62 days in jail, 28 of which were spent in solitary confinement, she now faces up to 18 months more in custody.
Trenga further tightened the screws on the former army private by adding a financial penalty. If Manning continues to refuse testimony and remains in jail after 30 days, she will be fined $500 for every subsequent day behind bars. If she reaches 60 days, the figure will be raised to $1,000 a day.
The tussle over the grand jury is now shaping up into an epic battle of wills between Virginia prosecutors determined to force Manning to testify in what they hope will be an eventual trial of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the former intelligence analyst, who has proven herself to have a defiant streak. In a video recording she made on the day she was released from jail a week ago following the expiry of the first grand jury, she said: “I will never agree to testify before this or any other grand jury. The government knows I cannot be coerced.”
The grand jury in front of which Manning has been ordered to appear is presumed to relate to the criminal prosecution of Assange. Assange has been charged with conspiring with Manning to break into military computers to help her transmit a vast trove of US state secrets to the open information organization in 2010.
After Thursday’s court hearing, Manning’s lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, said: “In 2010, Chelsea made a principled decision to let the world see the true nature of modern asymmetric warfare. It is telling that the United States has always been more concerned with the disclosure of those documents than with the damning substance of the disclosures.”