Obama gives fresh hope to Crouch End computer hacker Gary McKinnon

President Barack Obama gave fresh hope to the Crouch End computer hacker Gary McKinnon yesterday, by saying that the Home Office will decide whether or not he should be extradited to the US.

In a press conference with the Prime Minister, President Obama said that the decision over whether Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, should be extradited for hacking into military computers, was now in the hands of the British legal system.

President Obama said: “We have confidence in the British legal system coming to a just conclusion, and so we will await resolution and we will be respectful of that process.”

Referring to Mr McKinnon by his first name, the Prime Minister added that he understood the widespread concern over how Gary would be treated in the US and sympathised with his family.

He said: “I totally understand the anguish of his mother and his family about this issue.

“We must follow the proper process and make sure the case is dealt with in the proper way.”

Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon’s mother, was delighted that the two leaders had discussed her son’s fate.

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“The fact that he [President Obama] said it was a UK decision and America would abide by it was incredible,” she said.

Referring to the press conference, she added: “The fact that two such powerful men had four questions and one of them was all about Gary, it was overwhelming… that they took the time to talk about Gary was incredible.”

Mr McKinnon, 45, is accused of hacking computer systems at the Pentagon and Nasa

between February 2001 and March 2002. He was living in a flat in Crouch End at the time. He does not deny hacking into the systems but claims he was looking for UFOs.

Mr McKinnon, who is a former pupil of Highgate Wood School, in Crouch End, faces up to 60 years in prison in the US if he is convicted. He has been fighting extradition to the US for several years

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Extradition can only be refused at this late stage in the process if the home secretary decides that extradition would breach Gary McKinnon’s human rights.

“The home secretary aims to reach a decision as soon as is consistent with dealing fairly and properly with all matters raised by Mr McKinnon’s legal team.”