Update May 17, 2017 : After seven years in military prison, Chelsea Manning was released Wednesday morning. President Obama commuted her sentence in January before leaving the White House, and after years behind bars, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks is hopeful about her future as a free trans woman.
This story was originally published on May 9, 2017.
Manning, who started a Twitter from prison by dictating to a communications firm that posts for her, tweeted on May 4, "12 more days! Celebrating a new hope, and a return of the sun." Her tweet signalled that she's set to be released Tuesday, but previous reports said she would be freed Wednesday, May 17.
"I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," Manning said in a statement. "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."
Her written statement continued, "I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians, and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. 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 announced she's a transgender woman the day after she was sentenced to 35 years in a men's military prison. She fought for access to hormone treatments and gender transition surgery and won both in unprecedented rulings. The ACLU represents Manning in a lawsuit started in 2014 against the Defence Department over the way it handled her requests for medical care related to her gender dysmorphia.
In her statement about her upcoming release, Manning also said she's "grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team, and countless supporters."
She added, "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."