LONDON (AFP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday hailed the sentencing of the website's source Bradley Manning as a "significant tactical victory", saying the US soldier could serve as little as one-sixth of his 35-year jail term.
In a statement issued from London where he has spent a year in the Ecuadoran embassy trying to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, Assange said there would be "thousand more Bradley Mannings".
Assange accused the United States of trying to set an example by its treatment of Manning, who supplied anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents.
Assange said Manning had been given a minimum sentence of 5.2 years and that the "hard-won minimum term represents a significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning's defense, campaign team and supporters."
The Australian did not explain how he calculated the minimum sentence.
He added: "While the defence should be proud of their tactical victory, it should be remembered that Mr Manning's trial and conviction is an affront to basic concepts of Western justice."
Assange called on donors and supporters to continue backing the US army private while his defence team tried to further reduce his sentence.
"Mr Manning's treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light. This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven," Assange said.
"Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings."
WikiLeaks recently lent its support to Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency (NSA) consultant who passed secret documents to Britain's Guardian newspaper. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia as he flees a US bid to prosecute him.
Manning was convicted of espionage and other crimes last month, having earlier admitted being the source of the battlefield reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and confidential US diplomatic cables.
WikiLeaks shot to international prominence in 2010 when it began publishing the documents from Manning, who was a junior intelligence analyst at a US base near Baghdad at the time.
Assange has been stuck in Ecuador's embassy in London for more than a year. He has said the allegations of sexual assault are a pretext to get him sent to the United States to face trial there.