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Fresh extradition blow for hacker

PUBLISHED: 10:59 12 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 September 2010

THE Home Secretary has defended the law which could see computer hacker Gary McKinnon extradited to the US. Alan Johnson was grilled by cross-party MPs on the extradition treaty being used in the case of the Asperger s sufferer at a home affairs select co

THE Home Secretary has defended the law which could see computer hacker Gary McKinnon extradited to the US.

Alan Johnson was grilled by cross-party MPs on the extradition treaty being used in the case of the Asperger's sufferer at a home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

The 43-year-old hacked into the Pentagon security system from a computer in his Crouch End flat.

His mother Janis Sharp had earlier given evidence to the committee - telling MPs that the former Highgate Wood pupil would rather die than be extradited to America.

She said: "This has ruined Gary's life, it's ruined our lives - all our lives are on hold. He is an innocent. He is straightforward and gentle. Now if someone talks to him, he jumps."

She asked for a meeting with Mr Johnson to plead Mr McKinnon's case.

But she was denied because he felt it would be "inappropriate given all the circumstances".

Mr McKinnon admits hacking into the US computer system but says he should be tried in this country.

He lost his last legal battle to take his case to the Supreme Court last month.

Mr Johnson has now stopped the clock on the process while he considers new evidence that Mr McKinnon's mental health is deteriorating due to stress caused by the prospect of being extradited.

His propensity to suicide is said to have become much greater.

Ms Sharp criticised the 2003 extradition treaty - introduced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks - saying it was supposed to be used to deport suspected terrorists.

"This treaty is a betrayal of British citizens who are at the bottom of the pool compared to the rest of the world," she said.

"It affects every British citizen. I am not aware of any high level conversation between the US and UK government.

"I have written to the Prime Minister and his wife and I think it is up to the government to do this. Why can't Mr Johnson speak to the US and ask if Gary can be tried here?"

Giving evidence to the committee, Mr Johnson said he had no discretion over the extradition process and was merely considering new medical evidence which was not available during the court hearings.

He defended the treaty saying: "The United States has a proper legal system, the United States has trial by jury and the United States has counsel.

"It is almost as if we are talking about an enemy state. It is important in a world where criminals cross borders to have proper arrangements in place to bring criminals to justice.

"It is quite proper for the US to want to bring people who have committed crimes against their country to trial.

"We are talking about a country which is not just a friendly state but one which we have a special relationship with."

If found guilty, Mr McKinnon faces up to 60 years in jail.

Ms Sharp told MPs that the new psychiatric evidence being considered by Mr Johnson was the "last throw of the dice" with only a last-ditch appeal to Strasbourg if that fails.

Mr Johnson said he hopes to reach a decision quickly.

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