Chelsea Manning, the transgender US soldier convicted of espionage for providing national security secrets to Wikileaks, was released from a military prison on Wednesday.
Manning — earlier known as Bradley Manning — was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act. The 29-year-old walked free from a maximum-security facility in Kansas thanks to a commutation of her sentence by president Barack Obama before he left office.
Manning, behind one of the largest classified information leaks in US history, was convicted in 2013 of stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sensitive State Department cables before leaking them to WikiLeaks.
After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed the name to Chelsea Manning and became a transgender woman.
In January, former US President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, thereby giving her an early release date.
Without 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.
Manning was one of the first service members to access transgender health care benefits under new policy and the first to be approved for gender reassignment surgery in military prison.