McKinnon Extradition Case Delayed, Pending Medical Evidence

Hacker has been given time for another health examination

British hacker Gary McKinnon has been given two weeks to decide if he wants to undergo psychiatric assessment, before a decision about his extradition to the US is made, the High Court ruled on Thursday.

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

Looking for UFOs

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”.

Young man in handcuffs - copyright FotoliaThe US authorities claim he caused damages of approximately £435,000. If he is extradited and found guilty, the hacker could spend 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.

On Thursday, McKinnon’s lawyer said his client would not wish to undergo another medical test. He said it would be “highly detrimental to [McKinnon’s] fragile mental state”, reports the BBC. His supporters, including politicians and celebrities, have called for the hacker to face justice in the UK, claiming that he would not receive a fair trial in the US.

McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, has also told the High Court in a statement that it would be “morally wrong” to make her son endure further assessments by doctors.

At the Thursday hearing, the judges were told that Home Secretary Theresa May was “very near” a decision, but she was “personally concerned” that medical professionals were unable to establish the condition of McKinnon’s mental health.

McKinnon extradition history

The extradition proceedings began way back in 2004, after the controversial 2003 Extradition Act came into force. If the hacker agrees to further medical assessment, the case could be delayed for another several months.

McKinnon has until 19 July to make a final decision, which will be followed by another hearing at the High Court before the end of the month.

This situation has some similarities with the ongoing case of Richard O’Dwyer, who is also facing extradition to the US.

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