WikiLeaks gives 15K for accused leaker defense-group

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:11pm EST

WASHINGTON Jan 13 (Reuters) - WikiLeaks has contributed $15,100 to help defend a junior U.S. soldier accused of leaking to it hundreds of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables and other secret documents, a support group said on Thursday.

The website's contribution would help pay lawyers representing U.S. Army Specialist Bradley Manning, a former intelligence analyst suspected of obtaining the classified video of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters employees, and downloading more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents.

"This donation from WikiLeaks is vital to our efforts to ensure Bradley receives a fair, open trial," Mike Gogulski, a founder of the Bradley Manning Defense Network, said in a statement.

The WikiLeaks contribution brings total donations for Manning's defense to over $100,000, the group said.

Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia as U.S. authorities investigate last year's publication of the leaked cables, many of which were an embarrassment for Washington, and military documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julian Assange, the Australian behind the website that has been strongly condemned by the Obama administration, has denied knowing Manning. But he has accused the United States of using the jailed soldier to build a case against him.

Assange is in Britain on bail awaiting possible extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

Supporters have claimed responsibility for cyberattacks on major credit card sites in retaliation for moves to block donations to WikiLeaks.

It is not clear when Manning, who was arrested in the first half of 2010, will face trial. Manning served in the intelligence operations of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade in Iraq.

(Editing by David Alexander and Philip Barbara)

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