Defense team in WikiLeaks soldier case claims bias

Defense team in WikiLeaks soldier case claims bias

FORT MADE, Maryland - Agence France-Presse
Defense team in WikiLeaks soldier case claims bias

Former U.S. Army First Lieutenant Daniel Choi puts a sticker on his coat to show support for U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. AFP Photo

The defense lawyer for a US soldier accused of handing over classified US documents to WikiLeaks called on the investigating officer Friday to step down from the case.

"The defense is filing a motion for you to recuse yourself," civilian lawyer David Coombs told the presiding officer, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, at the start of the military hearing in Maryland.

Coombs claimed the process was biased against accused soldier Bradley Manning, who turns 24 on Saturday and was appearing in court for the first time since his arrest in May 2010.

Manning is accused of supplying WikiLeaks with US diplomatic cables, videos and military reports from Afghanistan and Iraq while serving as an intelligence analyst on a military base near Baghdad between November 2009 and May 2010.

Coombs said that as Almanza was a career military prosecutor, it raised questions of whether or not he could be impartial.

The government had submitted a list of 20 witnesses, and "everyone was granted," Coombs said with Manning sitting next to him, taking notes with a pen.

He added the defense submitted a request for 48 witnesses, of which 10 were the same as the government's "but only two out of 38 that were not in common were granted." "An individual looking at this from the outside, a reasonable person, would say clearly this is biased," Coombs said.