In a new twist to Gary McKinnon's long-drawn out extradition saga, the Conservative Party used the UK hacker to challenge the current laws during a commons debate yesterday.
McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, is accused of hacking into high-level security systems in the US. Although it looks increasingly likely that he will be tried in the US, his supporters are fighting to see him tried in the UK, where it is felt that his case will be considered more sensitively.
David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield, raised questions about the way in which all such cases are considered, and suggested that the government should play a more active role in protecting the rights of UK citizens.
"We thought that we had moved on from a home secretary who trumpets the government's terrorism-fighting credentials, and focuses only on terrorists whom we all want to be prosecuted and extradited," he said.
"We thought that we had moved on from a home secretary who only talks about fighting on behalf of the innocent. What we are all concerned about is justice - justice for the innocent and for the guilty. That is as important for Gary McKinnon, who has not sought to hide his guilt, as for anyone else. We are concerned about proper due process."
Burrowes maintained that cases should be considered with all the facts in place, and warned the government about deciding on an appeal without opening the process to proper debate.
"Such a provision would allow the court properly to consider the applicant before them. In the case of Gary McKinnon, or others like him, it could consider the fact that the applicant was severely autistic, and could consider the implications of that, not only for the defendant's understanding of the crime that they are alleged to have committed, but particularly with regard to the impact of the extradition process, the impact of the process taking place in another place such as the US, and the impact of the sentence," he said.
"The sentence would have a profound effect on people such as Gary McKinnon, particularly given the length of sentence proposed; it is judged that it could be up to 60 years. The provision would also allow bail to be considered carefully."
The calls drew cross-party support from a number of other MPs. John Gummer, conservative MP for Suffolk, added: "Many of us are not happy with how the system works in many American states.
"Of course it is true that this government has interpreted the agreement to mean that they will not extradite people who might be subject to the death penalty, but my example illustrates that the American system of justice is not the same as the one in this country or, dare I say it, in the rest of the European Union.
"We are governed by the European Convention on Human Rights, so it is reasonable to say that people have a right to be concerned when extradition to the US is raised as a possibility."
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