Home Secretary Accused Of ‘Spineless’ McKinnon Decision

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Gary McKinnon’s Conservative MP has attacked the Home Secretary’s decision to allow the extradition of the hacker who is “suicidal and sectionable”

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has been accused of being “spineless” in his decision to grant an extradition request by the American authorities for hacker Gary McKinnon.

Last week Johnson said the information he had been provided with in the case of McKinnon was not “materially different” from that placed before the High Court earlier in the year, and therefore he could not contradict the ruling. McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, could face up to 70 years in prison if he is convicted.

However, McKinnon’s Conservative MP David Burrowes has attacked Johnson’s decision, highlighting his constituent’s health problems and pointing to concerns about his possible suicidal tendencies.

“How ill and vulnerable does Gary McKinnon need to be, to not be extradited to the US? How can it be proportionate to allow extradition of a UK citizen who is suicidal and sectionable,” said Burrows, addressing MPs. “Far from you saying you are powerless to stop Gary McKinnon’s extradition, in the light of this medical evidence, you have shown yourself and your government to be spineless.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, added his voice to that of Burrows, asking “Is the Home Secretary prepared to accept the real risk that he will have the life of a man on his hands?”

However, Johnson has defended his decision, saying ““It is a very heavy burden on any Home Secretary’s shoulders, but my job is to uphold the law… There are very serious charges against Mr McKinnon. He has to answer for those charges.”

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McKinnon was arrested in 2002 after he hacked into 97 military and NASA systems in a bid to find secret information about aliens and unidentified flying objects (UFOs). US prosecutors alleged his hacking caused it to shut down critical systems and networks in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and caused damages of approximately £435,000 ($700,000).

McKinnon lost his High Court appeal against extradition to the US in July, but in October the Home Secretary decided to delay the extradition while he examined new medical evidence. “I have to ensure that his Article 3 human rights are being respected,” Johnson said at the time.

McKinnon and his lawyers still have a lifeline. They have two weeks to lodge an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, and also have the option of asking for a judical review in the next seven days.

“We will not commence extradition proceedings until all legal avenues that Mr McKinnon wishes to pursue have been exhausted,” said Johnson. “I am currently considering a request from Mr McKinnon’s lawyers for an extension of the seven-day time limit.”


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