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A group pressing for more open government Tuesday flouted a military ban to release a secretly-recorded audio of testimony by US Army private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking war files.
It marks the first time since Manning was arrested in May 2010 that the world has heard his voice as he awaits trial on 22 charges of giving classified material on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the WikiLeaks whistle-blower website.
Reporters covering a series of pre-trial hearings being held at a military tribunal at Fort Meade in Maryland have been explicitly barred from making any video or audio recordings or from taking photographs of Manning.
"We hope this recording will shed light on one of the most secret court trials in recent history," the Freedom of Press Foundation (FPF) said in a statement, as it published the audio-file on its website.
"We wish to make sure that the voice of this generation's most prolific whistle-blower can be heard -- literally -- by the world."
The tape was made during a nearly hour-long statement last month, when Manning in a firm and assured voice said he leaked the files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks in order to start a "public debate."
When he deployed to Iraq he found himself alienated from his comrades and at odds with an army that "seemed not to value human life," he told the hearing.
The 25-year-old, who is being held in military custody pending trial, said he would plead guilty to 10 of the less serious of the 22 charges against him, but would deny aiding America's enemies, a crime which carries a life sentence.
The court has agreed to accept his plea on the lesser allegations -- under which Manning faces 20 years in military custody.
"Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government's policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy," the FPF said.
"Whether military or civilian, this type of closed-door legal process impairs the public's right to know and journalist's ability to report on matters of deep public concern.
"The courtrooms of America should be open to the public so they can see and hear what is being done in their name."