[Ppnews] WikiLeaks suspect Manning mistreated by military, psychiatrist says

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 29 10:23:14 EST 2012

  WikiLeaks suspect Manning mistreated by military, psychiatrist says

Bradley Manning was held in solitary confinement despite expert's claim 
he was no longer a suicide risk

      Ed Pilkington <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/edpilkington> in
      Fort Meade, Maryland
    * guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>, Wednesday 28 November
      2012 19.41 EST
    * http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/nov/29/wikileaks-bradley-manning-treatment/print

The psychiatrist who treated the WikiLeaks 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/wikileaks> suspect, Bradley Manning 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/bradley-manning>, while he was in 
custody in the brig at Quantico has testified that his medical advice 
was regularly ignored by marine commanders who continued to impose harsh 
conditions on the soldier even though he posed no risk of suicide.

Captain William Hoctor told Manning's pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade 
that he grew frustrated and angry at the persistent refusal by marine 
officers to take on board his medical recommendations. The forensic 
psychiatrist said that he had never experienced such an unreceptive 
response from his military colleagues, not even when he treated 
terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo.

"I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had 
never experienced anything like this. It was clear to me they had made 
up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had 
no impact," Hoctor said.

The psychiatrist was testifying at Manning's court martial for allegedly 
being the source of the massive leak of hundreds of thousands of 
confidential US government documents to the whistleblower website 
WikiLeaks. The 24-year-old soldier, who worked as an intelligence 
analyst until his arrest in Iraq in May 2010, faces 22 counts and 
possible life in military custody.

Manning's defence lawyers are attempting to have the charges thrown out 
or any eventual sentence reduced by seeking to prove that the soldier 
was subjected to unlawful pre-trial punishment at Quantico. During the 
nine months he was in custody at the marine base in Virginia he was put 
on suicide watch and a "prevention of injury" order, or PoI, that kept 
him in solitary confinement and exposed him to extreme conditions that 
were denounced by the UN and Amnesty International as a form of torture.

Hoctor began treating Manning from the day after he arrived at Quantico 
on 29 July 2010, seeing him initially every day and then later once a 
week. At first he recommended that the soldier be put on suicide watch - 
the most stringent form of custody - given that he had mentioned killing 
himself while previously held in Kuwait and that nooses that he had made 
were found in his cell.

But within a week of seeing Manning he changed his recommendation, 
reporting to officers that in his medical opinion the soldier could be 
put on the lesser PoI status. His advice was ignored for a couple of 
weeks, Hoctor told the court. "At Quantico they often did not 
immediately follow, or sometimes did not follow at all, my recommendations."

The failure to act on the doctor's recommendation was an apparent 
violation of the instructions under which marine installations operate. 
The regulations state that "when prisoners are no longer considered to 
be suicide risks by a medical officer, they shall be returned to 
appropriate quarters."

By 27 August 2010, Hoctor testified, he had spent enough time with 
Manning to recommend a further easing of conditions. From then on he 
advised in a regular weekly report that Manning should be taken off PoI 
altogether and returned to the general brig population.

"I was satisfied he no longer presented a risk. He did not appear to be 
persistently depressed, he was not reporting suicidal thoughts, in 
general he was well behaved."

Specifically, Hoctor was convinced that Manning no longer needed to be 
subjected to restrictive conditions that included: no contact with other 
people, being kept in his cell for more than 23 hours a day, being 
checked every five minutes, sleeping on a suicide mattress with no 
bedding, having his prescription glasses taken away, lights kept on at 
night, having toilet paper removed.

Only on two occasions did Hoctor report that Manning appeared upset and 
should be put temporarily under close observation. The first incident 
occurred in December 2010 when Fox News erroneously reported that 
Manning had died, and the second in January 2011 when the soldier broke 
down in tears while in the exercise room.

Yet the psychiatrist's recommendation that other than these isolated 
incidents Manning should be treated like other inmates was consistently 
ignored. The soldier was kept on PoI throughout the rest of his time at 

The blanket denial of his expert opinion was unprecedented in his 
quarter century of practice, the psychiatrist said. "Even when I did 
tours in Guantanamo and cared for detainees there my recommendations on 
suicidal behaviour were followed."

Hoctor said he openly protested about the thwarting of his expert 
opinion at a meeting with the commander responsible for the brig, 
Colonel Robert Oltman, on 13 January 2011. At the meeting Oltman 
informed the doctor that Manning would be kept on PoI "for the 
forseeable future".

Hoctor said that the marine commanders should no longer pretend they 
were acting out of medical concern for the detainee. "It wasn't good for 
Manning. I really didn't like them using a psychiatric standard when I 
thought it clinically inappropriate," Hoctor said.

The court heard that Oltman replied: "You make your recommendations, and 
we'll do what we want to do."

Earlier the court martial heard from Oltman himself, who told the judge 
presiding over the proceedings, Colonel Denise Lind, that he had chosen 
to overlook Hoctor's advice because he didn't fully trust the doctor. A 
few months before Manning arrived at Quantico, an inmate of the brig, 
Captain Michael Webb, had killed himself while under Hoctor's care.

"I did not have the utmost confidence in Captain Hoctor," Oltman testified.

When that lack of trust was put to Hoctor by Manning's defence lawyer, 
David Coombs, the psychiatrist replied: "If they felt that way they 
should have got another person to do the job."

Despite the unprecedented conditions that Manning was held under, Hoctor 
said the detainee coped quite well. "Most people would have found it 
very difficult, being watched every five minutes, but he did better than 
expected -- I think he decided he was going to be strong."

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