Gary McKinnon Will Not Be Extradited To US

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After ten years of waiting, Gary McKinnon learns he will not be extradited

Home Secretary Theresa May has decided that British hacker Gary McKinnon will not stand trial in the US over the alleged hacking of military networks.

McKinnon was indicted on seven counts of computer-related crime by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, but the Home Office suspended the extradition process in 2010 following reports that he was an Asperger’s sufferer and posed a serious suicide risk.

He will now be trialled in the UK, where his alleged offences took place. May cited his health condition and fragile mental state as the main reasons to keep him in the country.

The Home Secretary also announced changes to extradition rules that would prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

A decade of expectations

McKinnon is accused of hacking into 97 US military and NASA computers over a 13-month period between February 2001 and March 2002, under the nickname “Solo”.

Justice, court, legal © Evlakhov Valeriy Shutterstock 2012The US authorities claim he caused damages of approximately £435,000. If the hacker was extradited and found guilty, he could have spent up to 60 years in prison.

McKinnon has admitted the hacks, but says he was simply looking for information on UFOs. This is somewhat inconsistent with the messages he left on some computers, referring to the American foreign policy and September 11 attacks.

He was arrested in 2002, and threatened with extradition in 2006. The case was expected to have an impact on the controversial Extradition Act signed between UK and the US, which quickly became the point of focus for Mckinnon’s lawyers and supporters.

The matter was debated on the highest levels of the government, including a meeting between David Cameron and Barack Obama in 2010. Before that, Gordon Brown personally asked for the proceedings to be abandoned.

Now, after ten years in limbo, the McKinnon case will finally be resolved in the UK. According to the Daily Mail, May’s decision followed a new medical examination by experts in the mental health field, who had concluded that McKinnon posed a very serious suicide risk if shipped off to the US.

May has also announced plans to change legislation and allow courts to block extradition attempts if it is in the interests of justice. In future, such cases will no longer be looked at by the Home Secretary, and instead would be transferred to the judges.

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