WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning freed from prison

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Chelsea Manning, the transgender army private jailed for one of the largest leaks of classified documents in USA history, was released from a military prison Wednesday after seven years behind bars.

Former president Barack Obama commuted the final 28 years of Manning's 35-year sentence in the final days of his second term in office.

Friends and family have organised a campaign to raise funds for Manning on her release, which has so far collected more than US$147,000 (€132,242). She gained later attention following her sentencing, for her announcement that she was transgender and would begin to identify as Chelsea. She attempted to take her life twice and after a hunger strike in 2016, she received permission for a sex change operation.

Ahead of Manning's release, a group of musicians released a compilation album with all proceeds to go to the former soldier as she starts a new life. Leavenworth, Kansas, early Wednesday morning after serving seven years on an espionage sentence, and will already star in her own documentary film about her return to civilian life.

"She has experienced trauma over the past seven years of her confinement and the trauma from those experiences won't just evaporate the day she walks out of prison", said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio, who represented Manning. "I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world", she said in a written statement.

President Obama's decision to commute her sentence drew criticism from leading Republicans, including Senator John McCain, who called it a "a grave mistake".

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The US Army has previously confirmed Manning will remain an active duty soldier, although in an unpaid status.

As of May 17, more than $152,740 has been raised on GoFundMe for Chelsea Manning to use for "rent, utilities, health care, clothing, and other living expenses for the first year after she is released".

Assigned in 2009 to an Army unit in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified databases. "Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine". Chelsea stated before her release, she hopes to use her experience to help others.

Manning will be on "excess leave" while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review, US Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Johnson said. It was not immediately clear how that would be affected by the Defense Department and Army restrictions.

More recently, WikiLeaks published Democratic National Committee emails in the weeks leading up to the 8 November US presidential election. The response, in a word, is heartening. And our promise to you is that we will always strive to provide indispensable journalism to our community.

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