US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (C), surrounded by US military, leaves a US military Magistrate Court facility during an Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland on December 19, 2011.
Former US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning has been formally charged with involvement in the largest leak of classified information in American history.
A military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Thursday charged Manning with 22 counts, the most serious of which is "aiding the enemy."
The charge is an offense that could bring the death penalty, but the prosecution has said it intends to seek a maximum of life in prison for Manning.
Manning, however, deferred entering a plea. He also declined to say whether he preferred to be tried before a single military judge or a military jury.
Manning's civilian lawyer, David E. Coombs, said he would be ready to begin the full trial in April. Prosecutors asked for the trial to be scheduled for early August.
The 24-year-old is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he was serving in Iraq.
The leak of the military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables sparked a firestorm by disclosing the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior US officials.
The Bradley Manning Support Group described his prosecution as "fundamentally unjust.”
Manning’ supporters also say the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial confinement have been orchestrated by the government to compel him to testify against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. A grand jury has been convened in Alexandria, Va., to hear evidence against Assange.
"They seem to be bludgeoning Bradley Manning to accept a plea where he would then implicate Julian Assange," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal organization based in New York City.