After nearly seven years in military prison, former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning was released on Wednesday after having her 35-year prison sentence commuted by President Obama in January.
Manning and her lawyers did not immediately comment on her release Wednesday. A week before she was freed, she published the following statement:
For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine. Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters.
Manning was convicted in 2013 by a military judge on 22 counts, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act, after she leaked some 700,000 classified files to WikiLeaks.
Those files included information on prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay without trial, the abuses of detainees in Iraq, and the devastating civilian death toll of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During her time in prison, Manning came out as transgender. She was given access to hormone treatments and eventually told she would be able to have gender confirmation surgery but was denied a request to change her gender markers and name on official documents and attempted suicide twice. After her first suicide attempt, she was sent to solitary confinement as punishment—a move that drew criticism from mental health professionals and LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform advocates.
Manning is still appealing her court-martial conviction—she’s hoping for a reversal of the judge’s decision to dishonorably discharge her and reduce her rank from private first class to private. While that aspect of her case is still pending, Manning will be on active duty after being released and will receive military health benefits but no pay, an army spokesperson told USA Today.
Update, 1:02 P.M.: Shortly after being released, Manning posted this picture to Twitter and Instagram: