UNITED STATES ARMY WHISTLEBLOWER Bradley Manning has announced that he will undergo gender reassignment so he can spend the rest of his life as a woman.
Announcing the news in a statement read on NBC's Today show on Thursday, the WikiLeaks source said in a letter titled "The Next Stage of My Life" that he no longer wants to be referred to as Bradley and instead wants to be called Chelsea. The statement read:
"I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial.
"I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.
"I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back."
The announcement of the gender alteration comes a day after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking "hundreds of thousands" of confidential documents to anti-secrecy website Wikileaks.
The 25 year old Manning was convicted in July of stealing 750,000 pages of classified US State Department documents and videos exposing the murder of two Iraqi journalists by a US Army helicopter crew and the abuse of detainees by Iraqi officers under the control of American forces.
Last month a US military court found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, a crime for which if found guilty he could have been sent to prison for life. However, Manning was convicted of 20 charges including violations of the Espionage Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the US code of military justice, which could have seen him face up to 90 years in prison.
Manning will be required to serve one third of his 35 year sentence before he becomes eligible for parole, reports claim. US military lawyer Colonel Morris David said that the sentence means that Manning is likely to serve between eight and nine years in prison.
Manning will also be dishonourably discharged from the US military and forfeit his pay. His rank will also be reduced to Private from Private First Class. µ
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