Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused in the biggest leak of classified information in American history, testified Thursday that he "totally started to fall apart" and had considered suicide while in military custody.
His testimony came during a pretrial hearing at Ft. Meade, outside Washington, where the defense is arguing to have his case dismissed, claiming the imprisonment Manning has experienced so far has amounted to enough punishment, reported CNN.
Manning spent more than 900 days in military custody, including time at the brig in Quantico, Virginia and Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
The Army private is accused of providing the anti-secrecy internet group WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information, including war logs and diplomatic cables, while based in Baghdad as a military intelligence analyst in 2009 and 2010, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Manning could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
During Thursday's testimony, Manning described what his life has been like since he was detained in Iraq on May 27, 2010. He described being shuffled between detention camps and said that after spending several weeks in the segregation tent at Kuwait's Camp Arifjan he felt like a caged animal, reported NBC News.
"I remember thinking, 'I'm going to die,"' Manning said. "'I'm stuck here in this cage and I don't know what's going to happen.' I thought I was going to die in that cage. And that's how I saw it, as an animal cage."
"I had pretty much given up."
According to NBC, Manning said he "certainly contemplated" suicide and had a mental breakdown about a month into his detention. He said he did not remember yelling, mumbling or making a noose out of his bedsheets, as he is reported to have done.
Manning's suicide threats followed him when he was transferred back to US soil. During in-processing at Virginia's Quantico prison, he told Marines that he was "always plotting, but never acting" on his suicidal tendencies.
Manning said he made the comment after a "shark attack" by the Marines, who he said barked orders at him and forced him to fill out paperwork for hours, reports NBC News.
He was given the "maximum custody" designation, which required him to sleep in a thick jumper called a suicide smock.
According to CNN, Manning said he spent 21 to 23 hours a day in his small cell with no company. He was allowed only a mattress, blanket, flip-flops, some clothes and his glasses.
He was later transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and re-classified as a medium-security detainee. According to the LA Times, the commander of the facility during Manning's transfer, Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, testified by phone Thursday that Manning was a "typical" detainee who "followed the rules" and "did what he was told."
Manning will appear back in court Friday morning for cross-examination from the prosecution.