Hacker wins battle against extradition to US


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The Independent Online

Gary McKinnon sensationally won his fight against extradition to the United States yesterday, as the Home Secretary, Theresa May, ruled that the former computer hacker was not well enough to stand trial overseas.

Mr McKinnon, 46, from north London, suffers from Asperger's syndrome and severe depression. He has spent the past 10 years in a legal and personal limbo. Prosecutors in the US want to try him for carrying out what they describe as "the biggest military hack of all time".

But supporters flocked to his cause and he quickly became a lightning rod for the many criticisms of Britain's extradition agreement with America.

In a shock decision which has been hailed as a significant milestone for those who have campaigned against the perceived one-sided nature of Britain's extradition agreement with its largest ally, Ms May, right, confirmed that she would halt Mr McKinnon's extradition because it would be "incompatible with his human rights".

His supporters had long argued that he would be at risk of suicide if he was held overseas. After seeking medical and legal advice, Ms May concluded that Mr McKinnon would not be fit to stand trial abroad. Instead it will be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide if a trial should be held in the UK.

Mr McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, thanked the Government for its intervention. "Thank you for finding the courage to do the right thing," Ms Sharp said. She added: "We've won for the little person."

Ms May also announced plans to introduce new rules which would give UK judges the power to decide whether a person wanted for extradition should be tried in a British court or abroad. The so-called "forum bar" would require separate legislation and is a direct challenge to Britain's faith in America's judicial system.

The Government's decision is likely to cause friction in Washington, which wanted to prosecute the hacker for breaking into a number of military and Nasa computers between March 2001 and February 2002.

The timing of Ms May's decision to announce plans for a forum bar sparked criticism from the families of two Muslim men who were extradited to the US just two weeks ago. Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan were sought by US prosecutors for alleged cyber crimes committed on UK soil – in their case running a pro-jihadi website.

It remains to be seen whether the "forum bar" will have any effect on the impending extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, from Barnsley, who is wanted by US prosecutors for alleged copyright infringements.