WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning freed from prison


Cars exit and enter US Army facility Fort Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 17, 2017. After seven years behind bars, US Army Private Chelsea Manning will walk out of the security gates of the Fort Leavenworth military prison, finally able to complete her transition as a free, openly transgender woman. Pic/AFP

Chelsea Manning, the transgender US soldier convicted of espionage for providing national security secrets to Wikileaks, was released from a military prison on Wednesday.

Manning, behind one of the largest classified information leaks in US history, left Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in the morning, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told CNN.

Manning was convicted in 2013 of stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sensitive State Department cables before leaking them to WikiLeaks.

Manning -- earlier known as Bradley Manning -- was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act.

After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed the name to Chelsea Manning and became a transgender woman.

In January, former US President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence, thereby giving her an early release date.

Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Manning's release, was quick to applaud the decision.

"... We will continue to call for an independent investigation into the potential human rights violations Manning exposed, and for protections to be put in place to ensure whistleblowers like Chelsea are never again subjected to such appalling treatment," a statement by Amnesty International said.

Last week, Manning tweeted her excitement about her impending release: "Freedom was only a dream, and hard to imagine. Now it's here! You kept me alive <3"

Manning had to serve her sentence in an all-male military prison despite a request to transfer to a civilian prison, said the report.

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world," she said in a written statement.

Manning remains on active duty status pending the conclusion of her appeals. As such, she may be entitled to military benefits, including healthcare.

Manning was one of the first service members to access transgender health care benefits under new policy and the first to be approved for gender reassignment surgery in military prison.

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