Chelsea Manning released from jail, but not for the reason you might think

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As recently as this Tuesday, the situation with Chelsea Manning seemed to be stalled. She had been in jail since last May, running up fines as she refused to testify before the grand jury investigating Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Then on Wednesday, Manning allegedly attempted suicide at the jail and was temporarily transferred to a hospital. Then, last night, despite being scheduled to appear in court today, the judge in the case ordered Manning to be released from jail. (BBC)

Manning was remanded for refusing to testify in an inquiry into Wikileaks. She had been held in a detention centre in Virginia since last May.

She was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, but the judge ruled that it was no longer necessary for her to testify.

Manning was found guilty in 2013 of charges including espionage for leaking secret military files to Wikileaks…

Manning, 32, refused to answer further questions about Wikileaks from investigators because she said she had already given her testimony during the 2013 trial.

So does this mean that Chelsea Manning was finally victorious over the courts and “won” this nearly year-long standoff? Should we take this to mean that the suicide incident worked and convinced the judge to finally relent?

No, it does not. What actually happened was that the grand jury was dis-impaneled. Manning’s procedural hearing that was scheduled for today was declared by the judge to no longer be necessary. And just as happened when the original grand jury was sent home, Manning could no longer be considered in contempt and had to be released once again.

Further proof of a lack of any “victory” for Manning came when her lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the more than $250,000 in fines she had accrued. The judge refused, saying that the fines would have to be paid in full. It’s also worth noting that the prosecutors in the case still have the ability to impanel yet another grand jury if they feel that would be needed. In that case, Manning could quickly end up behind bars yet again.

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The real mystery here is why the grand jury was sent home. Does this mean that they’ve collected all of the evidence they feel is available and are ready to take Assange to trial if he’s successfully extradited from Great Britain? Or are they giving up on the case? We probably won’t know the answer to that question until the extradition hearings conclude later this month.

A spokesman for Manning’s legal team released a statement about her release.

Judge Anthony Trenga today ordered Chelsea Manning’s release from confinement, after the apparent conclusion of the grand jury to which she had been subpoenaed, and before which she refused to testify. He further ordered that she pay $256,000 in fines which accrued each day she refused to cooperate with the grand jury.

Needless to say we are relieved and ask that you respect her privacy while she gets on her feet.

That doesn’t sound like much of a victory lap to me. It’s just an acknowledgment that she’s out of jail and heading home. And with that, another chapter in the long, strange tale that is Chelsea Manning’s life comes to a close.

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