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FORT MEADE, Maryland (AFP) – A verdict is expected Tuesday in the trial of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who faces life behind bars for leaking a massive trove of secret government files to WikiLeaks.

Military judge Denise Lind plans to issue her judgement at 1700 GMT, her office said Monday.

Manning was serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq when he sent the anti-secrecy website a vast cache of secret diplomatic cables and classified military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 25-year-old has admitted to leaking some 700,000 documents but denied other charges, including the most serious count — that he knowingly helped Osama bin Laden’s global extremist network Al-Qaeda.

If convicted of that charge, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial could begin as early as Wednesday.

In closing arguments, defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was no traitor but rather a “young, naive and good-intentioned” whistleblower who wanted to encourage public debate about U.S. foreign policy.

The prosecution insists Manning recklessly betrayed his uniform and his country by leaking documents he knew Al-Qaeda would see and use.

Manning’s supporters argue that a conviction would be a huge blow for press freedoms in the United States and would deter future whistleblowers from exposing government wrongdoing.

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