In a new twist to the long-running campaign for Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon to be tried in the UK, Welsh secretary Peter Hain today dramatically broke ranks with the government and backed the calls.
Hain is quoted in a Daily Mail report as saying that it would be better for McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, to be tried in "a British context", given that he committed the offences while on British soil.
"I have a lot of sympathy with Gary McKinnon and his mum, who is a very brave woman fighting for his rights," Hain is reported as saying. "He has Asperger's syndrome which does tend to produce the kind of behaviour that is very compulsive."
Hain's words will be a blow to home secretary Alan Johnson who has consistently refused calls to intervene and prevent McKinnon's extradition, although it remains to be seen whether the public support of a cabinet minister will help the 43-year old Londoner's cause.
McKinnon lost his High Court appeal on Friday, and faces over 60 years in a maximum security US jail if found guilty of hacking into US military and Nasa computer systems in 2001 and 2002.
Deputy prime minister Harriet Harman said yesterday that the government would push for McKinnon to serve his sentence in the UK, even if he were extradited to face trial in the US. However, others have pointed to the case of the NatWest Three, who were tried, and are still imprisoned, in the US.
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