Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier who was deemed a traitor by prosecutors after sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, is expected to be released next week after seven years in prison.
Manning was originally set to spend 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act and other offenses after releasing more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. However, then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January.
In a statement ahead of her release, Manning thanked Obama and her supporters.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” Manning said in Tuesday’s statement. “I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world.”
“Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine,” she went on. “Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team, and countless supporters.”
Last September, she was hailed as hero in the LGBTQ community when she went on a hunger strike to demand gender confirmation treatment. Manning, who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman, ended her strike after the Army complied with her request.
“I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians, and artists,” Manning said in her statement. “My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.”