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WikiLeaks soldier's sentence reduced - if convicted

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves the courthouse after his motion hearing in Fort Meade in Maryland January 8, 2013. Mannin
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves the courthouse after his motion hearing in Fort Meade in Maryland January 8, 2013. Mannin

(Reuters) - A military judge on Tuesday reduced by 112 days any sentence that accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning might receive as compensation for harsh treatment he received in military detention, a Department of Defense spokesman said.

Manning, a 25-year-old U.S. Army private, faces 22 charges including aiding the enemy, which carries a penalty of life in prison.

In the event he is convicted and receives a lesser sentence, Judge Colonel Denise Lind gave him credit for 112 additional days served as a form of recompense, the Defense Department said in a summary of the court martial's pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. The full trial was scheduled to start March 6.

The mass disclosure of military and diplomatic secrets by WikiLeaks beginning in 2010 staggered diplomats across the globe and outraged U.S. officials, who said damage to national security from the leaks endangered U.S. lives.

The judge recognized treatment from the period Manning was held at the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Virginia, from July of 2010 to April of 2011, including time on suicide watch. The judge granted 20 days credit in exchange for guards continuing to remove Manning's underwear at night and 10 days for denying him exercise, the Pentagon said.

Lind refused to dismiss all charges, as the defense requested, and also declined to grant a defense request to reduce any sentence by 10 days for every day of his nearly nine months of being held with excessive treatment, the Guardian of Britain reported. That would have knocked more than seven years off any sentence, the Guardian said.

Instead the judge agreed to a day-for-day ratio, and only recognized 112 days of the nine-month period as unduly harsh, the paper said.

Manning was confined to a 48-square-foot (4.46-square-metre) cell for up 23 hours a day, his lawyers have said. The Pentagon said he had to sleep naked and was awakened repeatedly during the night to check that he was safe.

David Coombs, Manning's civilian lawyer, told the judge Manning intentionally selected the information he gave to WikiLeaks to make sure it was harmless to the United States and would not aid any foreign enemy, the Guardian reported.

Prosecutors have argued that Manning effectively handed intelligence to al Qaeda by helping place confidential documents on the internet.

But Coombs said evidence would show Manning had no "evil intent" to help the enemy, the Guardian reported. Manning selected what he considered harmless material and believed "information that is out in public can't do any harm," Coombs said.

Having it "out there" would negate any of its potential for damaging national interests, Coombs said, according to the Guardian.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and charged with downloading thousands of intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and combat video while with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade intelligence operation in Iraq.

Manning's lawyers will continue to work with the court on the language of a proposed plea involving less serious charges and a prison term of at least 16 years, one of his attorneys has said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June to avoid extradition to Sweden for alleged sex crimes.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, David Alexander and Ian Simpson; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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