(CNN) — Army private Bradley Manning, charged in the largest leak of classified material in American history, spoke at length on Thursday about his treatment in military custody, saying he grew distressed and considered suicide at one point.
In a clear voice and often gesturing with his hands at a hearing at Ft. Meade, Maryland, the bi-spectacled Manning described his experiences publicly for the first time since his arrest more than two years ago.
The hearing was held to consider a defense motion to have his case dismissed on grounds his confinement so far has been harsh and has amounted to enough punishment.
At the very least, his lawyers hope the judge would take his confinement into account and sharply reduce his sentence, if convicted at his court-martial set to begin early next year.
The defense has said it plans to have Manning plead guilty to lesser offenses and fight other charges as being too extreme.
The Army intelligence analyst is accused of stealing thousands of classified documents while serving in Iraq. The material was then published online by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has never confirmed that Manning was the source of the information.
Counts against Manning include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, transmitting national defense information and theft of public property or records.
He could receive a sentence of up to life if convicted on all counts at his court martial.
At Thursday's hearing, Manning wore his Army uniform and wire rimmed glasses.
"I can't see without my glasses," he said.
He first discussed his arrest in Iraq and his transfer to Kuwait where he was held for a nearly two months before being transferred to the brig at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia in July 2010.
He said he once passed out due to the heat. He also said not being allowed to know what was happening to him or in the outside world was distressing.
He contemplated suicide in Kuwait.
"My world just shrunk to Camp Arafjon, to that cage," Manning said. "I thought I was going to die in that cage."
A Navy psychiatrist testified on Wednesday that he believed Manning was a potential suicide risk when he arrived at the Quantico brig where he was held from Manning was held in the Quantico brig from July 2010 until April 2011 when he was moved to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
At Quantico, Manning said he spent most days in his small cell - at least 21 hours and often more than 23 hours with no company.
In the courtroom, he put on a "suicide smock," like the one he said he was forced to wear on many occasions. It covered his shoulders but not his arms and hung to about his lower thighs.
Manning said he always slept with light from outside his cell in his eyes. If guards could not see his face when he rolled over at night, he said they would wake him to roll back over.
When first under suicide watch, he was not allowed his glasses. Since, in his words, he couldn't see details beyond a few inches from his face, the Marine guards were frustrated that he could not see their rank. He also could not read anything unless it was right in front of him. The guards eventually let him have his glasses.
The Pentagon has maintained that Manning was held in accordance with rules governing all maximum-custody detainees at Quantico, for his protection and the safety of others. His status was "POI" for prevention of injury.