Fort Meade: A military judge refused on Thursday to dismiss a charge that Army Pfc Bradley Manning aided the enemy by giving reams of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
It is the most serious charge Manning faces, punishable by up to life in prison without parole. Col Denise Lind, the judge in Manning`s court-martial, denied defence motions to acquit him of that charge and a computer fraud charge. The defence had cited a lack of prosecution evidence.
Lind found that the government had presented some evidence to support both charges.
Manning showed no reaction to the rulings, sitting forward in his chair and appearing to listen intently, as he has throughout the trial.
More than two dozen of his supporters also sat quietly in the courtroom, some wearing T-shirts reading, simply, "truth."
"We`re disappointed," Jeff Paterson, a board member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said outside the courtroom. "However, we`re very hopeful" that Manning eventually will be found innocent of the charges, he said.
The trial is moving toward closing arguments, possibly next week.
To convict Manning, prosecutors must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt; they had to meet a less stringent standard in convincing Lind that the charges should stand.
To convict him of aiding the enemy, the government must prove Manning gave WikiLeaks intelligence with "evil intent" and "actual knowledge" that what he leaked would be seen by al Qaeda members.
Prosecutors produced evidence that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden obtained digital copies of some of the leaked documents WikiLeaks published. Lind said prosecutors also produced evidence that Manning knew from his training and other military documents, that "it must be presumed foreign adversaries will view" anything posted on the WikiLeaks website.
The government also charged Manning with espionage and theft.
Manning has said he leaked the material to provoke public discussion about what he considered wrongdoing by American troops and diplomats.
The material included video of a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a news agency news photographer and his driver.
A military investigation concluded the troops reasonably mistook the photography equipment for weapons.
Paterson and other critics said the judge`s refusal to drop the charges is a blow to whistleblowers.