Lawyers: Chelsea Manning to receive gender transition surgery

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WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, serving a 35-year prison term for passing classified files to WikiLeaks, ended her hunger strike on Tuesday after the Army said she would be allowed to receive gender transition surgery, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said.

The 28-year-old Army private, who was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman, announced the hunger strike on Friday.

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CORRECTS FIRST NAME IN FIRST SENTENCE TO CHELSEA INSTEAD OF BRADLEY - FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. A northeast Kansas judge will make a final determination Wednesday, April 23, 2014, on Manning’s request to change her name from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for giving reams of classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, file photo, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted to a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after a hearing in his court martial. A northeast Kansas judge will make a final determination Wednesday, April 23, 2014, on Manning’s request to change her name from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for giving reams of classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, file photo, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who now wishes to be known as Chelsea Manning, is escorted to a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after a hearing in his court-martial. The lawyer representing Chelsea Manning in her appeals says the soldier’s 35-year sentence for leaking classified information is out of proportion with her offenses. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - In this June 5, 2013, file photo Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then-Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after the third day of his court martial. The U.S. government's aggressive prosecution of leaks and efforts to control information are having a chilling effect on journalists and government whistle-blowers, according to a report released Thursday on U.S. press freedoms under the Obama administration. Manning provided information to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning steps out of a security vehicle as he is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, before a sentencing hearing in his court martial. The military judge overseeing Manning's trial said she will announce on Wednesday his sentence for giving reams of classified information to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 file photo, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted into a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., before a hearing in his court martial. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking a trove of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, supporter Colonel Ann Wright, stands at a news conference in Hanover, Md., Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Supporters of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning hold up banners as they protest outside of the gates at Fort Meade, Md., Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, before a sentencing hearing in Manning's court martial. The military judge overseeing Manning's trial said she will announce on Wednesday his sentence for giving reams of classified information to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Supporters of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning hold up banners as they protest outside of the gates at Fort Meade, Md., Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, before a sentencing hearing of Manning's court martial. The military judge overseeing Manning's trial said she will announce on Wednesday his sentence for giving reams of classified information to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A combination photo shows U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who was born male Bradley Manning but identifies as a woman, imprisoned for handing over classified files to pro-transparency site WikiLeaks, being escorted by military police at Fort Meade, Maryland, U.S. on December 21, 2011 (L) and on June 6, 2012 (R) respectively. U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, imprisoned for passing classified files to WikiLeaks, now stands accused of misconduct stemming from her suicide attempt earlier this month and could land in solitary confinement indefinitely, her lawyers said on July 28, 2016. REUTERS/File Photos
FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Tuesday, July 30, 2013, after receiving a verdict in his court martial. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy â the most serious charge he faced â but was convicted of espionage, theft and other charges, more than three years after he revealed secrets to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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Manning's treatment will begin with the surgery that was recommended by her psychologist in April, the ACLU, which represented Manning, said in a statement. Manning is held in Kansas.

No transgender inmate has ever before received gender affirming surgical treatment in prison, the ACLU said.

"I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted - for them to let me be me," Manning said in a statement, though she went on to criticize the government for taking "so long."

A spokesman for the defense department said it would not comment on the matter in order to protect patient confidentiality.

Manning in July tried to commit suicide over what her representatives said was the government's denial of appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person feels their physical gender is the opposite of the one he or she identifies with.

The Army announced later that month that it would investigate Manning for misconduct in connection with the attempt to take her own life, a probe that could lead to indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security or additional prison time.

According to Manning's representatives, doctors have recommended that as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria the soldier, who began hormone therapy in 2015, be allowed to follow "female hair grooming standards."

ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio said in Tuesday's statement that the government plans to still enforce the male hair standards.

Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison after a military court conviction of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The case ranked as the biggest breach of classified materials in U.S. history.

Among the files Manning leaked in 2010 was a gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing on suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007, an attack that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Andrew Hay)

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