US soldier Bradley Manning has taken the stand at his sentencing hearing in the WikiLeaks case and apologised for hurting his country, pleading with a military judge for a chance to go to college and become a productive citizen.
He addressed the Fort Meade court in Maryland after a day of testimony about his troubled childhood in Oklahoma and the extreme psychological pressure experts said he felt in the "hyper-masculine" military because of his gender-identity disorder, his feeling that he was a woman trapped in a man's body.
One psychiatrist said Manning has symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder.
"I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States," Manning said.
The soldier said he understood what he was doing but did not believe at the time that leaking a mountain of classified information to the anti-secrecy website would cause harm to the US.
The 25-year-old could be sentenced to 90 years in prison for the leaks, which occurred while he was working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. The next court session, for any prosecution rebuttal testimony, is set for Friday.
The release of diplomatic cables, warzone logs and videos was the largest leak of documents in US history. It included a video of a 2007 US helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver.
Though he often showed little reaction during the two and a half month court-martial, Manning appeared to struggle to contain his emotions several times during testimony from his sister, an aunt and two mental health counsellors.
Speaking quickly but deliberately, he took only a few minutes to make his statement. He appeared to be reading it from papers and looked up a number of times to make eye contact with the judge. It was an unsworn statement, meaning he could not be cross-examined.
He said he realises now that he should have worked more aggressively to find a legal means to draw attention to his concerns about the way the war was being waged. He said he wants to get a college degree, and he asked for a chance to become a more productive member of society.