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Bradley Manning sentence reduced if convicted -

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SAMANTHA DONOVAN: To the United States now and a judge has reduced the scale of the likely sentence for a soldier accused of passing reams of secret government files to the WikiLeaks website.

One hundred and twelve days will be shaved off any prison term for Private Bradley Manning.

The judge said Manning has been harshly treated since he was locked up nine months ago.

A short time ago I spoke to North America correspondent Jane Cowan, who attended the hearing at Fort Meade military base.

JANE COWAN: Well, the defence had filed a motion last year to have the whole case thrown out on the grounds that the conditions of Private Manning's detention have been so harsh as to constitute punishment meted out pre-trial - the fact that he was confined to a tiny cell and sometimes forced to sleep naked.

The defence today didn't get any of the charges dismissed but the judge did agree that some of the treatment of Private Manning has been excessive and in some cases unlawful. The judge singled out for example the decision to keep the 25-year-old on suicide watch after a doctor had deemed it no longer necessary and it's in a kind of recompense for that that she's given this discount on any eventual sentence of 112 days.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: How significant then is this ruling?

JANE COWAN: Well, the reality is that the maximum possible sentence on the cards here is life behind bars and if that is the punishment handed down, 112 days off life means virtually nothing but it is a small win at this juncture for the defence because it is recognition that the US military did violate its own rules and mistreat Bradley Manning which is what supporters have been saying all along.

It is not a disaster though, Sam, for the US government because the judge made a point of saying that no one in the hierarchy in the military ever intended to punish Private Manning and that the motivation had been to keep him safe in light of a history of mental health problems including suicidal thoughts that had extended to making nooses out of his bed sheets.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: That's North America correspondent Jane Cowan.