Home Secretary “Stops The Clock” on McKinnon Extradition

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Home Secretary Alan Johnson has thrown a lifeline for supporters of British hacker Gary McKinnon, allowing time to examine new medical evidence

The protracted extradition of British hacker Gary McKinnon has taken another turn after Home secretary Alan Johnson said he is to look “very carefully” at new medical evidence before formally approving his transfer to the United States.

Earlier this month McKinnon finally lost his legal fight in the High Court. Following that, the UK government agreed to consider new evidence from McKinnon lawyers, after agreeing not to commence a 14-day count down mandated for any application to the European courts.

And now Home Secretary Alan Johnson has told MPs that he had “stopped the clock” on proceedings to give McKinnon’s lawyers time to consider medical reports and make legal representations.

“There are two issues upon which Gary McKinnon’s legal advisers have argued,” he said. “The first is that the Director of Public Prosecutions should have tried him in this country. The High Court in July dismissed that, and wouldn’t allow it to go to judicial review.” But, he continued: “I have to ensure that his Article 3 human rights are being respected. It’s this new medical evidence that I will be looking at very carefully.”

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McKinnon is said to be facing up to 60 years in jail in the US after he was indicted in late 2002 for hacking into military computers between February 2001 and March 2002. The US 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.

In July 2006 the British government agreed that McKinnon, who has subsequently been diagnosed with the neurological disorder Asperger Syndrome, would be extradited to the United States. But McKinnon and his family launched a determined and lengthy legal battle to keep him in the UK. His campaign has even managed to enlist the support of a number of Members of Parliament (MPs) and celebrities such as Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and Sting.

The latest news was welcomed by McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, who told The Times newspaper that she was hopeful the Home Secretary would heed the medical evidence before him. “The evidence is very powerful. I’m really glad the Home Secretary has decided to look at it, because Gary’s health has already deteriorated so much. After eight years of constant stress, he is suicidal.

“We should not have a Government that is so powerless it cannot stand up against America for the right of its own citizens.”

Author: Tom Jowitt
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