UK government shamed over Gary McKinnon extradition debacle

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gary-mckinnon-1Another week, another update in the decade long saga around whether or not UK authorities should extradite Gary McKinnon to the US, after the hacker accused of accessing Pentagon systems refused a medical on the grounds that the ‘expert' appointed by the Home Office was nothing of the sort.

The incident adds to the outrageous treatment McKinnon has suffered at the hands of the government and its unbelievably slow handling of the case, which has dragged on since 2002 - a full decade - since his activities first came to light.

McKinnon, who suffers from Aspergers' Syndrome, has already had six (yes, six) medical tests, with the last three all carried out by prominent medical experts working on his condition, who all proclaimed him a suicide risk if he was extradited.

The Home Office, though, led by the impressively useless Theresa May, decided another medical test was required, so appointed someone with no direct expertise on the condition to assess McKinnon. Unsurprisingly, McKinnon's legal team to refused the tests as it wouldn't be a fair assessment.

"Asperger syndrome is a complex condition and it would be impossible for anyone without specialised training to fully understand its impact," explained Mark Lever, the chief executive of National Autistic Society.

"If Gary is forced to undergo an assessment that doesn't take account of his needs and he is consequently extradited, it could have very serious and potentially tragic ramifications."

Judges also urged the government to appoint a recognised expert, but they do not have the actual authority to force them to do so, and it very much appears the Home Office chose to ignore them to pursue what increasingly appears an agenda against McKinnon to see him sent to the US.

"This situation has dragged on for over 10 years - and the stress of this in itself will undoubtedly have had a negative impact on Gary's mental health. The home secretary must urgently take the necessary steps to recognise Gary's needs," added Lever.

Leaving complex medical debates aside, though, the fact the case has lasted 10 years and no outcome has been reached is shameful, utterly shameful.

Yes, the legal system is complex; and yes, due process and the rule of law must be upheld. But the case should have been finished years ago.

At least then McKinnon, and his tirelessly campaigning mother Janis Sharp, could move on and know where they stand, rather than the limbo of the last 10 year of endless medical reassessments, empty phrases and meaningless promises.

Of course, the whole issue is based around the outrageous extradition situation with the US that sees the UK cast in the role of bullied playground child who'll do anything to appease his tormentors.

However, it's not that the UK won't refuse extraditions point blank.

For example, as The Independent reported in June of this year, a request to extradite a man accused of sex crimes in the US was rejected. The man is married to a senior policy manager at the Ministry of Justice, The Independent also noted.

In 2012 - a shining year for the UK with the Olympics bringing the eyes of the world on the nation - it would be a wonderful thing if McKinnon's case could conclude.

It should see him acquitted on the grounds that no punishment could be as bad as what he's endured already at that hands of his own government.

20 Jul 2012

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