Hacker Gary McKinnon to be extradited to US

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon is at serious risk of suicide, relatives said on Friday after the home secretary rejected a last-ditch attempt to prevent his extradition to the United States.

In a letter Alan Johnson ordered McKinnon’s removal to the US on charges of breaching US military and Nasa computers, despite claims by his lawyers that extradition would make the 43-year old’s death “virtually certain”.

“The secretary of state is of the firm view that McKinnon’s extradition would not be incompatible with his [human] rights”, said the letter, dated November 26. “His extradition to the United States must proceed forthwith”.

The decision, described by lawyers as “callous”, has prompted new fears about McKinnon’s well-being. The letter rejected new expert medical evidence that the health of McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, had deteriorated dramatically since losing his case in the high court in July, and meant that extradition would violate his right to life.

“Gary is at risk of suicide, I’m extremely worried about him”, said McKinnon’s mother Janis Sharp.
“This government is terrified of speaking up to America, and now they are allowing vulnerable people to be pursued for non-violent crime when they should be going after terrorists. Why are they doing this?”

The decision is a final blow for McKinnon, from north London, who was accused in 2002 of using his home computer to hack into 97 US military and Nasa computers, causing damage which the US government claims will cost over $700 000 to repair.

Earlier this year the high court rejected arguments that the extradition would violate McKinnon’s rights, after lawyers argued the prospect of up to 60-years’ imprisonment in an American “supermax” jail would cause mental harm because of his Asperger’s syndrome and depressive illness.

The home secretary has insisted that he had received assurances from the US government, including a guarantee that McKinnon would be assessed by doctors and psychologists were he transferred to a US jail, and would receive “appropriate medical care and treatment”, including counselling and medication, in a letter from the US Department of Justice this February, seen by the court.

Lawyers had also argued that the director of public prosecutions could prosecute McKinnon in the UK, on lesser charges of computer misuse, preventing his extradition. The charges are less serious in the UK than the US, where McKinnon faces a prison sentence of up to 60 years.

“The CPS wanted to prosecute Gary, but they were told from the very top to stand aside and let American take him”, said Sharp.

The case comes after sustained controversy over the US Extradition Treaty, designed to speed up extradition between the two countries but which critics insist works in favour of Americans and fails to adequately protect British people from extradition.

McKinnon’s legal team had hoped to join his case to the case of Ian Norris, the retired business chief facing extradition to the US to face trial on charges of obstructing justice due to his alleged role in an illegal cartel whose case will be heard in the supreme court on Monday.

Lawyers had argued that McKinnon’s case raised similar legal issues, and should have been considered by the nine-strong panel of Supreme Court Justices sitting next week. Attempts to be heard in the supreme court failed however, although McKinnon’s legal team said they would be seeking a judicial review of the decision.

“The Americans have waited three years before requesting Gary’s extradition, and the government is too terrified to say no”, said Sharp. “What America wants, America gets”, Sharp added. “I think it’s disgusting”.

“This is a hold over from Bush. We thought with Obama it would be different. Now the first person in the world to be extradited to the US for computer misuse is going to be a guy with Asperger’s. All our lives have been ruined by this—the heart just sinks.” - guardian.co.uk

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