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NEW YORK -- The United Nations is probing a complaint that Bradley Manning, the detained Army private suspected of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks has been mistreated in custody. And WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange called Manning "a political prisoner" during an interview on MSNBC.
As The Huffington Post reported last week, Manning's supporters went public with their concerns about the harsh conditions of his imprisonment aboard a floating brig in Quantico, Va. -- he has no access to exercise or even a pillow and bedsheets during his 23 hours of solitary confinement a day -- after their complaints to the military over several months went unheeded.
According to the Associated Press, the U.N. office for torture issues in Geneva said it received a complaint from one of Manning's supporters alleging conditions at the brig amount to torture. A spokesman for the Marines denied mistreating Manning, telling the AP he is being kept safe, secure and ready for trial.
Assange told MSNBC that he doesn't know if Manning is the whistleblower (due to the blinders of the software used by WikiLeaks), but he's a "political prisoner" in the U.S., adding that claims he conspired with Manning are "absolute nonsense."
Recently, Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, posted a blog detailing the conditions of Manning's detention. Though he is allowed to read books and watch television for a few hours a day, the ban on exercise in his cell is strictly enforced. "If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop," wrote Coombs.
The lawyer also expressed frustration with the harsh conditions, describing multiple attempts to improve them and indicating that he is prepared to file a motion under Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which bans illegal pretrial punishment.
"The defense has raised the conditions of PFC Bradley Manning's confinement conditions on multiple occasions with the Quantico confinement facility and the Army Staff Judge Advocate's (SJA) Office assigned to handle this case. Our efforts, unfortunately, have not resulted any in positive results. To its credit, the SJA office is attempting to correct this situation. However, given the fact that Quantico is a Marine Corps facility, it has similarly had no success."