Ahead of whistleblower Chelsea Manning's release from military prison this week after seven years behind bars, WikiLeaks announced Tuesday that the group had set up a "Welcome Home Manning" fund and asked people to donate Bitcoin in support of the soldier imprisoned for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military documents.
Manning is set to walk free on Wednesday from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after former U.S. President Barack Obama granted her clemency in January, saying she had taken responsibility for her crime and her sentence was disproportionate to those received by other whistleblowers.
"Manning release in less than 24 hours. We've set up a Welcome Home Manning (and to Bitcoin!) fund," WikiLeaks wrote on its Twitter account. "Surprise her!"
"After an epic seven-year fight alleged WikiLeaks' source Chelsea Manning will be free tomorrow," WikiLeaks wrote in a separate tweet.
After her release, Manning will be an unpaid soldier and will continue to receive health care and other military benefits, Dave Foster, an army spokesman said, according to newspaper USA Today.
“Private Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review,” Foster said.
Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 classified U.S. war reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. She received a 35-year prison sentence, by far the longest punishment ever dished out in the U.S. for a whistleblowing conviction.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” Manning said in the statement released last week. “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.”
Manning, previously known as Bradley Manning, changed her name shortly after her sentencing, identified as a woman and received hormone treatment while incarcerated.
“Like far too many people in prison, particularly transgender women, Chelsea Manning has had to survive unthinkable violence throughout the seven years of her incarceration,” Manning’s lawyer Chase Strangio said.
She added that the military mistreated Manning by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care, and not allowing her to wear a feminine-style haircut.
Manning filed a transgender rights lawsuit and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers.
While Manning’s court-martial conviction remains under appeal, she had been informed that she was eligible for gender-affirming surgery paid by the government. However, if the appeal of her conviction is denied, she could be dishonorably discharged, which mandates a loss of benefits including health care.
"I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others," Manning said in the statement.