Army Private First Class Manning is escorted in handcuffs as he leaves the courthouse in Fort Meade

The U.S. Army intelligence officer accused of slipping military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks is expected to take the witness stand on Thursday, when he will read aloud from a 35-page statement defending himself in the espionage case. Private First Class Bradley Manning was set to enter a formal plea to the 22 charges against him at a pre-trial hearing before a U.S. military judge.

In previous hearings, Manning has offered to plead guilty to various lesser charges in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including the unauthorized possession and willful distribution of information accessed in the Combined Information Data Networks, a military database, for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has said he will plead not guilty to the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which is a violation of the federal Espionage Act, among others. Manning, who has been jailed for over 1,000 days, could face life imprisonment if convicted of that top charge.

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