Today sees the depressing milestone that Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 300 days. I was proud to speak at the rally in support of him on the 20th March outside the US Embassy, like demonstrators across the globe.
For over seven months he has been held in military arrest in conditions that most of us could not imagine enduring. To be confined in a tiny windowless cell. To be held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. To be forced to stand naked. To be put under intolerable psychological pressure. No wonder that Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, likened the conditions to those in Guantanamo Bay.
It is important to remember that Bradley Manning is not convicted of any crime. But now he is facing a slew of new charges including "aiding the enemy". This is rarely used so it seems that the US authorities have been really digging hard to find a way to discover serious accusations. This is a capital offence - in other words carrying the death penalty. Surely this must finally make UK and EU politicians sit up and take notice. This is a special humanitarian reason which justifies the British government making representations to the Americans, about one of their dual nationals, and they must do so without delay.
It is perhaps this charge of "aiding the enemy" that is most chilling, and not just because of its seriousness. The question is on what basis is this charge brought at all? Does this really mean that Wikileaks itself is seen as an enemy of the United States? Even if it is a question of indirectly aiding the enemy- the ill defined group of international terrorists- all of us who are striving to protect whistleblowers are collaborators by extension. Is the US really planning to pursue the Guardian, the New York Times, and el Pais ? Is it really intending to hunt down the Swedish Pirate Party who hosts some of Wikileaks' servers? This seems unlikely, so the inhuman treatment of Bradley Manning is exposed as something even more tawdry, a case of exemplary "justice". The only purpose that this literal stripping bare of a young man can possibly serving is as some kind of warning- a warning to all of of us who are working for a more open and transparent democracy.
Our only response can be to speak out, not only for Bradley Manning, but for all of us who are determined to expose the abuse of power. Otherwise he will not be the last young man naked in a cell.
It is vital that we press our MPs to sign Early Day Motion 1624 in support of Bradley Manning. For once this is an area where individual members of parliament can make a real difference. At the time of writing only 5 have found the time to do so. He deserves better, and we deserve better than this as a society.