WASHINGTON — Supporters of alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning on Tuesday accused President Barack Obama of interfering the future trial, after the president said the army private broke the law.
The White House however disputed the stance of the Bradley Manning Support Network, which arose after an encounter between Obama and a group member following a political fundraiser in San Francisco last week.
Obama told activist Logan Price in an exchange caught on camera that Manning, 23, had acted irresponsibly and risked the lives of US service members by allegedly sending secret military and diplomatic documents to the website.
"He broke the law," Obama said.
"We're a nation of laws. We don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate."
Manning supporters maintain that Obama's comments as-commander-in-chief could prejudice the deliberations of a jury of military officers at Manning's eventual military trial.
"President Obama is the commander-in-chief. The jury that demands the guilt or innocence of Bradley Manning will be made up of military officers under his command," said Kevin Zeese, a Bradley Manning Support Group lawyer.
"It is hard to imagine military officers finding him not guilty. Will military officers contradict the commander-in-chief?
"Will they find Manning not guilty and open the military up to liability for mistreatment of Manning? It seems unlikely," he said, arguing that Manning had been mistreated, even tortured in a military brig.
Obama's National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor however disputed the interpretation of the encounter provided by Manning's supporters.
"The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act. He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Private First Class Manning specifically."
The encounter with the Manning supporter followed an Obama 2012 fundraising event which was interrupted by activists singing a song in support of the private.
The 23-year-old Welsh-born US Army private has been in military detention since July 2010 as US authorities scramble to cope with an avalanche of embarrassing revelations carried by Wikileaks and the global media.
His conditions, which have included solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the British government.
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