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president obama has commuted chelsea manning’s sentence

After serving seven of her 35 year sentence, Chelsea Manning will walk free on May 17.

Wendy Syfret

Wendy Syfret

Days before the end of his presidency, Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. The army intelligence analyst — who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing US Government documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 — will be released on May 17 of this year, rather than 2045. In recent days, there has been strong speculation one of the President's last acts in office would be to revisit Chelsea's sentence, the longest ever imposed over a leak in the U.S.

Chelsea's case drew international attention not only for the information she made public, which revealed abuses of Iraqi detainees by officers and showed civilian deaths during the Iraq war were likely higher than estimated, but also for the treatment she received as a transgender woman. Chelsea announced she was transgender after her trial, changing her name from Bradley.

Despite this fact, Chelsea has served her sentence in a male military prison, where last year she attempted to take her own life twice. During the seven years she's served so far, Chelsea has fought to receive hormone treatments, wear female underwear, and light cosmetics; however, she was not permitted to grow her hair out. Chelsea has also requested to start speaking to a surgeon about undergoing gender confirmation surgery.

With her sentence commuted, Chelsea will now be able to take control of her transition in private — rather than having to fight a US military prison system that has little experience managing gender transition. Donald Trump has voiced strong opposition to pardoning and commuting sentences, telling reporters it's "overly politically correct." The President-elect even hinted he may reinstate sentences after he takes office on Saturday. But for now, it's a very happy day for Chelsea and her many supporters.

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Text Wendy Syfret
Image released by United States Armed Forces