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Political row erupts over hacker's extradition

PUBLISHED: 12:42 03 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:20 07 September 2010

Charlotte Newton A POLITICAL row has erupted over whether the government has the power to stop Gary McKinnon from being extradited to the US. Up to 40 MPs have signed a letter to US President Barack Obama calling for him to intervene and bring this shame

Charlotte Newton

A POLITICAL row has erupted over whether the government has the power to stop Gary McKinnon from being extradited to the US.

Up to 40 MPs have signed a letter to US President Barack Obama calling for him to intervene and "bring this shameful episode to an end".

The MPs spoke out after Mr McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, and is a former pupil of Highgate Wood School, lost his latest High Court action to avoid extradition to the US.

The MPs argue that he should be tried in the UK and that the Anglo-American extradition treaty signed by the then home secretary, David Blunkett, was unfair.

David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader said: "Gary McKinnon is a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to face trial.

"If he has questions to answer, there is a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court."

But the Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the Ham&High: "It would be illegal for me to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon, which the Court ruling has made clear. "Mr McKinnon is accused of serious crimes and the US has a lawful right to seek his extradition, as we do when we wish to prosecute people who break our laws."

The US wants to try McKinnon, 43, for what it alleges is the "biggest military computer hack of all time", in 2001 and 2002.

He has been accused of hacking into 97 US Army, Navy, Nasa and Defence department computers following the 9/11 attacks - and leaving the network vulnerable to intruders. He was living with his girlfriend in a flat in Hornsey at the time.

He faces up to 60 years in prison if he is convicted and his mother, Janis Sharp, fears that he may commit suicide and be unable to cope because of his vulnerability.

Mr McKinnon, who now lives in Wood Green, has admitted hacking but denies it was malicious or that he caused $800,000 damage. He has always maintained that he was searching for classified documents on UFOs -although he did leave messages on US security systems.

He had asked the court to rule on whether his Asperger's Syndrome meant he could not be extradited to the US.

His lawyers argued extradition was "unnecessary, avoidable and disproportionate" and it had not taken place in other cases.

But in a 41-page ruling, judges Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie said extradition was "a lawful and proportionate response to his offending".

Sting's wife Trudie Styler, a prominent supporter of Gary who was present for the judgment said: "Reason and common-sense dictate that Gary's extradition would be abhorrent. We cannot let this be the end of the road. It is quite clear that Gary is a deeply vulnerable man, ill-equipped to cope with the trauma of extradition."

Mr McKinnon has already appealed unsuccessfully to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights. His solicitor, Karen Todner, said she would lodge an appeal against the High Court's decision within 28 days.

Mr Johnson said: "My predecessor has already sought and received clear assurances from the US that Mr McKinnon's health and welfare needs would be met, should he be extradited. It is open to Mr McKinnon to seek to appeal to the House of Lords.


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