The material WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq, and America's weak support for the government of Tunisia — a disclosure that Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
The Obama administration has said the release of the material threatened to expose valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments.
Manning's supporters — including Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg — have hailed him as a whistleblowing hero and political prisoner. Others say he is a traitor who endangered lives and national security.
Some 20 Manning supporters were in the courtroom, including Princeton University professor and civil rights activist Cornel West and Medea Benjamin, a member of protest group Code Pink.
"I think it's a show trial," Benjamin said. She and others complained about the small courtroom, saying the government was trying to make it look as if Manning had less support than he really has.
"It's important to support him," said Anne Wright, a retired Army colonel. "I spent 29 years in the military, and what Bradley Manning has done is exposed government corruption and brutality."
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