11/30/2012 02:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Exclusive: Julian Assange Speaks Out on Bradley Manning Case; Lawyer Says Military Aims to "Break Him" to Give Evidence Against WikiLeaks

In his most extended interview in months, Julian Assange speaks to Democracy Now! about the Bradley Manning pretrial hearing from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for nearly six months.

"What is happening this week is not the trial of Bradley Manning; what is happening this week is the trial of the U.S. military. This is Bradley Manning's abuse case," Assange says. "Bradley Manning was arrested in Baghdad, shipped over and held for two months in extremely adverse conditions in Kuwait, shipped over to Quantico, Virginia, which is near the center of the U.S. intelligence complex, and held there for nine months, longer than any other prisoner in Quantico's modern history. And there, he was subject to conditions that the U.N. special rapporteur, Juan Méndez, special rapporteur for torture, formally found amounted to torture."

"There's a question about who authorized that treatment," Assange says. "Why was that treatment placed on him for so long, when so many people--independent psychiatrists, military psychiatrists--complained about what was going on in extremely strong terms? His lawyer and support team say that he was being treated in that manner, in part, in order to coerce some kind of statement or false confession from him that would implicate WikiLeaks as an organization and me personally. And so, this is a matter that I am--personally have been embroiled in, that this young man's treatment, regardless of whether he was our source or not, is directly as a result of an attempt to attack this organization by the United States military, to coerce this young man into providing evidence that could be used to more effectively attack us, and also serve as some kind of terrible disincentive for other potential whistleblowers from stepping forward."

Democracy Now! also speaks to Michael Ratner, a member of the legal team for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, who was present in the courtroom Thursday when Manning testified about his experiences in military detention. He revealed the emotional tumult he experienced while imprisoned in Kuwait after his arrest in 2010, saying, "I remember thinking, 'I'm going to die.' I thought I was going to die in a cage." As part of his testimony, Manning stepped inside a life-sized chalk outline representing the six-by-eight-foot cell he was later held in at the Quantico base in Virginia. His trial is expected to begin in February.

"What's remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this," Ratner says. "But I think all these prison conditions, sure, they were angry at Bradley Manning, but in the face of that psychiatric statement, that this guy shouldn't be kept on suicide risk or POI, they're still keeping him in inhuman conditions, you can only ask yourself, they're trying to break him for some reason. The lawyer, David Coombs, has said it's so that he can give evidence against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks."

Assange also discusses the United States' targeting of WikiLeaks. "The Pentagon is maintaining a line that WikiLeaks inherently, as an institution that tells military and government whistleblowers to step forward with information, is a crime. They allege we are criminal, moving forward," Assange says. "Now, the new interpretation of the Espionage Act that the Pentagon is trying to hammer in to the legal system, and which the Department of Justice is complicit in, would mean the end of national security journalism in the United States."

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