Blow for NASA hacker McKinnon after judicial review

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Gary McKinnon supporters and human rights groups showed their outrage on Wednesday when a judicial review of extradition arrangements concluded that British suspects do not have to be tried in the UK, even if the crime is committed in this country.

The review, headed by Sir Scott Baker, was ordered on 8 September last year by the coalition government to decide on whether the 2007 US-UK extradition treaty should be reformed.

The four year old act allows UK citizens to be transferred to the US - as may happen to hacker Gary McKinnon - without the US authorities being forced to make even a basic case in the UK.

While in opposition, both coalition leaders, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, had called for the treaty to be reconsidered.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, described the decision as baffling.

"Britain's rotten extradition system stinks of human rights abuse and rank hypocrisy," she added.

"It's time we stopped parceling people off around the world like excess baggage and remembered the duty of all governments to protect their people and treat them fairly."

Meanwhile, McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp tweeted today that the Baker's report was "dreadful" and a "whitewash".

Sharp also maintained that the US attorney general, Eric Holder, had an unfair influence over Baker's review panel.

McKinnon's supporters have argued for British courts to stop extraditions if a significant part of a suspect's offence was alleged to take place in the UK.

McKinnon is accused of breaking into the computer systems of Nasa and the Pentagon when looking for what he claimed was information on UFOs. He could face up to 60 years in a maximum security prison if found guilty in the US, although at the moment he remains in the UK.

McKinnon's supporters have campaigned against his extradition on the grounds that he has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and may not be able to cope with the stress of being sent abroad.

In May this year US president Barack Obama hinted in a joint press conference with Cameron that the US may be willing to drop extradition proceedings against  McKinnon, because the matter is in the hands of the UK government.


19 Oct 2011

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