OSLO Aug 12 A U.S. rights group has collected
over 100,000 signatures urging the Norwegian Nobel committee to
give this year's Peace Prize to Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier
convicted of leaking classified U.S. government files touching
on military policy.
Recognising Manning, the head of the RootsAction group said,
would also help repair the Nobel panel's reputation after it
chose President Barack Obama for the Peace Prize in 2009, only a
few months into his first term of office.
"There's a cloud hanging over the Nobel Peace Committee,"
Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction said on Monday, as he
prepared to hand his 5,000-page petition to the committee.
"In a sense, the Nobel Peace Prize at this point needs
Bradley Manning more than Bradley Manning needs the Nobel Peace
Prize ... There has now grown a question about the Nobel
Committee's commitment to human rights and peace in an even
handed, independent way."
Private First Class Manning was convicted earlier this month
of charges that included espionage and theft for releasing more
than 700,000 battlefield videos, diplomatic cables and other
secret documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. He now
faces up to 90 years in prison.
Solomon argued that the disclosures shortened the U.S.
military involvement in Iraq and made it more difficult for the
country to engage in conflict. A representative of the Nobel
committee said the petition would not influence its decision.
"The Nobel Peace Prize is not a popularity contest and a
large number of signatures will neither help nor hinder his
(Manning's) candidacy," Asle Toje, the Norwegian Nobel
Committee's Research Director said.
"It will be reviewed on its merit, based on the principles
laid out in the will of Alfred Nobel. It's not unprecedented
that we receive a large volume of supporting material for a
candidate ... but these do not influence the committee."
Manning, 25, was a low-level intelligence analyst in Iraq in
2010 when he was charged with leaking files including videos of
a 2007 attack by a U.S. Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad
that killed a dozen people, two of them Reuters news staff.
The Nobel committee, which also came under fire for awarding
the Peace Prize to the European Union last year, has repeatedly
rejected criticism over its selection of Obama before the first
black U.S. president had achieved anything notable in office.
The 2013 Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 11. A total
of 259 people and groups were nominated by the February
deadline, including Manning, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala
Yousufzai, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Myanmar
President Thein Sein.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, editing by Mark Heinrich)