PFC Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 for passing information to WikiLeaks, has finally been given a court date.

Manning’s hearing will begin December 16, 2011, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and is expected to last around five days.

The majority of the proceedings will be open to the public, except when classified information is being discussed.

The accused’s lawyer says the hearing is being held “to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case as well as to provide the defense with an opportunity to obtain pretrial discovery.”

Manning’s attorneys will be able to call witnesses as well as cross examine the government’s witnesses, all of whom will be testifying under oath and whose words may later be used in a criminal trial.

Manning was first arrested in Iraq in May 2010. He was suspected of giving restricted information from the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network to WikiLeaks employee and hacker Adrian Lamo. In July 2010, Manning was charged with transferring government data to a personal computer and with unauthorized sharing of national defense data.

The information Manning is said to have passed onto Lamo included 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, video footage of a airstrike in Iraq in July 2007 and video footage of an airstrike in Afghanistan in May 2009. Both video clips showed U.S. military killing unarmed men, women and children.

Manning’s arrest set off a string of online hacktivist activities and resultant arrests. The back-and-forth, tit-for-tat attacks have pulled parties from the loosely organized group Anonymous to U.S. government officials and political pundits into the fray.

We’ll keep you posted on Manning’s initial hearing as more details become available.

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