Bradley Manning, the US soldier alleged to have passed to WikiLeaks a trove of military and diplomatic documents, will have a first hearing before a military court next month, the Pentagon says.
Manning, who has spent the past year-and-a-half in prison, is to appear before a December 16 tribunal in Fort Meade, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, military officials say.
Army officials say Manning is to appear at an “Article 32 hearing”, the first step in a court martial that could end up in a life sentence.
“The primary purpose of the Article 32 hearing is to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case as well as to provide the defence with an opportunity to obtain pre-trial discovery,” a Pentagon statement said on Monday.
It added that the hearing, which is scheduled to take place the day before his 24th birthday, is “similar to a civilian grand jury, with additional rights afforded to the accused”.
Manning allegedly gave thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, which later published them online. He is charged with “aiding the enemy”, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Manning is the only suspect facing trial in the United States for the document dump — a massive intelligence breach which led to an embarrassing daily drip of diplomatic revelations and military secrets in newspapers and websites around the world.
Manning, who was arrested in July 2010, served as a US intelligence official in Iraq.
His conditions in detention, which have included solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the British government.