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Whistleblower Chelsea Manning walks free from prison

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," says the soldier, whose 35-year sentence was commuted as President Obama left office.

Supporters of Chelsea Manning have protested around the world.
Gail Orenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning walked free from prison on Wednesday, after serving nearly seven years of a 35-year sentence.

Formerly known as Bradley Manning, the US soldier and intelligence analyst was imprisoned after leaking diplomatic and military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Her sentence was commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama in January.

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," said Manning, a transgender woman held in a male prison, in a statement released via her legal team. "Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts."

She took to Instagram on Wednesday morning to document her departure from prison:

Manning's release comes against the backdrop of renewed attention to WikiLeaks, most notably for its role in making public thousands of emails related to Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential election. In March of this year, WikiLeaks released a cache of alleged top-secret CIA documents that discussed spying via everyday gadgets including phones and TVs.

The US government has reportedly considered taking WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, to court under the Espionage Act.

In 2013, after having already been in confinement for three years, Manning was sentenced on charges including wrongful possession and transmission of national defense information, theft of government information, unauthorized access to a government computer and wrongful publication of U.S. intelligence information. The court found Manning not guilty of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.

For the time being, Manning will continue to be on active duty in the US military pending the outcome of her appeal.

In commuting the sentence, President Obama said that the seven years' confinement was sufficient punishment and that the original sentence was disproportionate to what other leakers had received. "Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence," he said.

Assange hailed Manning's release as an "epic victory."

Originally published May 17 at 2:53 a.m PT.
Updated 7:10 a.m. PT: Added background information along with an Instagram post from Manning.

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