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Manning's sentence poves crisis of Western democracy, experts say

August 22, 2013, 17:22 UTC+3

The disclosure phenomenon, a new form of protest, has emerged in United States on the backdrop of disillusionment with democracy

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MOSCOW, August 22 (Itar-Tass) - The conviction of WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning demonstrates testifies to a severe crisis of Western democracy, Russian experts expressed this view in an interview with Itar-Tass.

“Such decisions tell us that Western democracy has entered into a serious crisis,” because a person may actually be jailed for life for exposure of deceptive policies, says Veronika Krasheninnikova, Director General of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives.

Meanwhile, she is certain, that a new form of civil protest, “the disclosure phenomenon,” has emerged in the United States. It was brought to life when it became obvious that the gap between the “public discourse” and the real politics of the country is enormous. The expert believes that this “phenomenon continues to gain momentum,” and therefore “the court had to severely punish Manning to persuade potential leakers like Assange, Manning, Snowden from disseminating the information they have.” However, she believes that this kind of protest would continue and would play a significant role.

In addition, according to Krasheninnikova, the sentence to Manning “destroys the image of (US President Barack) Obama as a messenger of peace and justice, defendant of human rights” and generally “greatly damages America’s reputation as a beacon of peace and democracy.”

Member of the RF Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Alexander Brod drew attention to the exceptional harshness of the sentence. “Other countries do not give such sentences under similar charges,” he stated.

The human rights activist who heads the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights believes that persecution of such figures as Manning “is a dangerous symptom,” which, in his opinion, “testifies to the fact that part of the US elite are not ready for the critical assessment of the situation in the country given by such citizens, as well as to bias in the administration of justice.” “Instead of using the expressed critical comments for debate, for the improvement of the legislation and making a clear distinction between the freedom of citizens and control of the Internet, they take the path of repressive justice,” Brod sad.

On Wednesday, an informant of the WikiLeaks organisation, former US soldier Bradley Manning was sentenced in the United States to 35 years in prison. Military Judge Colonel Denise Lind rendered this verdict at a trial at Fort Meade in Maryland. Previously, she recognised the 25-year-old ex-soldier guilty of a number of serious crimes, including espionage and theft of government property. Manning had been arrested at a US military base on May 29, 2010. He was given credit of 1,293 days served, including the 112 days for his harsh treatment at Marine Corps base at Quantico in Virginia, and will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of the sentence. He may also be given additional credit for good behaviour, and could be released in about eight years.

Deputy chairman of the parliament committee on constitutional legislation and state development Alexander Ageyev /A Just Russia faction/ said the United States can no longer call itself a democratic state after the verdict.

"In effect, Manning has just exposed human rights violations and drawn attention to them," the parliamentarian told Itar-Tass on Thursday. "He gets 35 years for this exposure, just for drawing attention to the problem."

Ageyev noted that on a number of occasions in the U.S. history, the government had to resign after whistle-blowing by human rights activists. Nixon is one such example, he said.

"Now that we've granted asylum to /Edward/ Snowden, /President Vladimir/ Putin's rating in the USA has increased to 45 percent. Today, the American society is beginning to support the people who draw attention to human rights violations. That a majority are under total surveillance both within the country and outside, is understandably resented by congressmen and ordinary residents," Ageyev added.

If the sentence on Manning is final, it will be a big mistake for the USA, because it will no longer be able to claim that it is a democratic state. Earlier, it tried to criticize Russia for its non-transparency and high level of corruption. And this particular case involves corruption, human rights violations and that the standards they declared are unrealistic, he went on.

In his opinion, the USA might change the president, and in that case Edward Snowden might return to his Motherland as a national hero. In theory, Obama could become such a hero if he "can acknowledge his errors, invite Snowden and publicly acknowledge human rights violations by secret services."

However, "I think that Obama cannot back from his position, which his rivals might exploit," Ageyev said.

U.S. serviceman Bradley Manning was found guilty by military judge Col. Denise Lind, in Fort Meade, Maryland, of leaking thousands of government documents to the online publisher Wikileaks. Earlier, she found Manning, 25, guilty of espionage and theft of state property. Manning’s term will be reduced by the time spent in prison since his detention at the U.S. military base in Kuwait on May 29, 2010. The prison term is to be further reduced by 112 days because of hard prison conditions, per Lind's decision. He will have the right to apply for parole after serving one third of the prison term.

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