Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of handing government secrets to whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, is to be transferred from the military prison in which he has been held for 10 months amid allegations of torture, to a new jail in Kansas.
At a press conference at the Pentagon yesterday, defence department general counsel Jeh Johnson said that Manning would be moved 'imminently' from solitary confinement at the military brig in Quantico, Virginia to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, saying: "Given the length of time he's been in pretrial confinement at Quantico... and given what the likely period of pretrial confinement in the future... we reached the judgment this would be the right facility for him."
A storm of protest has surrounded Manning's detention at Quantico, where he is being held under a 'prevention of injury order', woken at hourly intervals during the night and refused sheets or a pillow on his bed. Authorities at the Quantico base confirmed that he had been forced to strip naked on at least one occasion.
UN rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, last week criticised the US government for refusing him access to Manning in private, in order to investigate claims of 'cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture'.
State department spokesman PJ Crowley, formerly a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was forced to resign in March, after describing Manning's treatment as "ridiculous and counterproductive" in unguarded comments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
News of the move to Fort Leavenworth has received a lukewarm reception from campaigners against Manning's mistreatment.
UK newspaper The Guardian reports that Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, who has raised Manning's case on Capitol Hill, said "nothing the department of defence has done so far with respect to PFC Manning provides any assurance that his basic human and constitutional rights are being protected. Any move does not change the fact that he has been held under conditions which may constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th amendment of the US constitution."
WikiLeaks said in a post on micro-blogging site Twitter that the move offered no guarantee of better treatment for Manning.
Manning was arrested last year while serving in Iraq as a defence analyst, and is awaiting court martial on charges including passing classified information to an unauthorised party. Though the list of charges includes capital offences, US authorities maintain they will not seek the death penalty.