By Lily Kuo
FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, charged with leaking thousands of classified U.S. government cables, argued on Tuesday for the dismissal of the charges against him based on what his lawyer called "irreparable prejudice" caused by the government's withholding of evidence.
Manning, 24, is accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, and faces life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy, the most serious of 22 charges against him.
Manning's attorney went on the offensive, asserting that military prosecutors have intentionally delayed handing over documents that, based on a past Supreme Court ruling, should be provided if necessary and relevant for Manning's defense.
"We don't hide the ball. You give everything upfront. We hold a trial based on the facts, no gamesmanship," David Coombs said in a procedural hearing that marked the beginning of three days of pre-trial motions.
The prosecution is obligated to turn over evidence to the defense team that will be introduced in court, used to prove a charge, or deemed relevant to the preparation of the defense for the accused.
Rather than restart that process, which has taken two years already, Coombs argued that the only recourse is to dismiss the charges and throw the case out entirely.
In a post on Coombs's blog, he wrote that the government had "wholly misunderstood ... longstanding fundamental and constitutionally-based rules, resulting in irreparable prejudice to ... Manning."
Military prosecutors in response argued that there were still "time and resources" to provide evidence to Manning before the trial begins, which could be as late as August.
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said she would rule on the motion on Wednesday.
Manning, in dark military dress uniform, flipped through files on the table in front of him and occasionally talked with his attorneys. He spoke only to answer the judge with a short, "Yes, your honor," when asked if he understood his rights to counsel.
Coombs also filed a motion for a transcript or audio file of a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia that has been investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his associates for months, with no known results.
Lind indicated that two military attorneys who had been assigned to Manning had been replaced but no reason was given.
Manning is accused of downloading more than 700,000 classified or confidential files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, while serving in the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Iraq.
Those files are thought to be the source of documents that appeared on WikiLeaks, which promotes the leaking of government and corporate information.
Other charges against Manning include wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet and theft of public property.
(Reporting By Lily Kuo; Editing by Eric Walsh)