FORT MEADE, Md. — Lawyers for the Army private who leaked a trove of classified government documents urged a judge Monday to dismiss a charge that he aided the enemy, saying prosecutors failed to prove Private First Class Bradley Manning intended for the information to fall into enemy hands.
The charge is the most serious and carries the most severe punishment — life in prison — in the case against Manning, who has acknowledged sending hundreds of thousands of documents to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks.
The trial of the 25-year-old Oklahoma native is drawing to a close on a military base outside Baltimore and a judge hearing the government’s case is weighing whether to dismiss that charge and several lesser counts. Manning has pleaded guilty to reduced versions of some charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison for those offenses.
The defense rested its case last week. Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge, said she would rule Thursday on whether to acquit Manning of the aiding the enemy charge and several lesser counts.
On the main charge, Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, argued that Manning could have sold the documents, which included battlefield reports and State Department diplomatic cables, or given them directly to the enemy. Instead, he gave them to WikiLeaks in an attempt to ‘‘spark reform’’ and provoke debate.
Coombs also said Manning had no way of knowing whether Al Qaeda would access the secret-spilling website and said a military report from 2008 showed the government didn’t even know.
‘‘What better proof that PFC Manning wouldn’t know then that the United States Army doesn’t know if the enemy goes to WikiLeaks,’’ Coombs said.
Coombs also argued that the charge requires Manning had ‘‘evil intent’’ in leaking the documents, which he said the government did not prove.