In January, during his final days in office, President Obama commuted the remainder of Manning's sentence, after she served seven years of her 35-year sentence, the longest ever given in the United States to a leaker.
Her freedom from prison is not total freedom:
Obama's decision to release the soldier early leaves her with legal challenges still hanging over her. Foremost of those is the fact that her sentence from 2013 under the Espionage Act remains in full force – a fact that her lawyers regard as ominous given the current incumbent of the White House.She emerges from prison with all the potential trauma of anyone who is incarcerated, plus the additional experience of having been held in men's prisons, because she is transgender. It was not an easy seven years for Manning, and she, like anyone, will carry with those difficult lived experiences, as well as the reputation among many of her fellow countrypeople as a traitor.
As a result, even in freedom Manning will continue to press vigorously for her sentence to be overturned. Her appeal, filed almost exactly a year ago in the US army court of criminal appeals, argued that her 35-year sentence was "perhaps the most unjust sentence in the history of the military justice system."
Manning's appeal lawyer, Nancy Hollander, told the Guardian: "People keep assuming that just because someone is released their appeal is over. The rest of her case is still out there and we want to clear her name. She was convicted of crimes that I don't believe she committed and her whole prosecution was unfair."
I don't know Chelsea Manning, but I take up space in solidarity with her and in support of her. I am so glad she is no longer in prison. I fervently hope that she has the support she needs to start life anew and process the last decade.
Should our paths ever cross, she will find a friend here.