FORT LEAVENWORTH // Chelsea Manning, the transgender army private jailed for one of the largest leaks of classified documents in US history, was released from a military prison on Wednesday after seven years behind bars.
The 29-year-old walked free from a maximum-security facility in Kansas following a commutation of her sentence by former US president Barack Obama before he left office.
Manning “has been released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks” at Fort Leavenworth, said US army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.
Her release was kept low-key, and media massed at the military installation caught no glimpse of Manning as she was released.
In July 2010, Manning – then a male soldier known as Bradley – was arrested over the release of a huge trove of more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents via WikiLeaks.
Without Mr Obama’s parting gift, the army private, who served as an intelligence official in Iraq, would have remained behind bars until 2045, after serving a 35-year sentence.
Supporters of Manning – who attempted suicide twice last year alone – said they feared she would not have been able to survive the long sentence. Now, she can complete her transition as a free, openly transgender woman.
“Two more days until the freedom of civilian life,” Manning tweeted on Monday. “Now hunting for private #health care like millions of Americans.”
Manning went on a hunger strike during her detention to denounce the disciplinary measures to which she was subjected – including stints in solitary confinement.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world,” she wrote last week.
* Agence France-Presse