Hacker's mother welcomes Hain's support

The mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon today welcomed support from cabinet minister Peter Hain after he suggested her son should be tried in Britain.

The Welsh Secretary said it would be better for Mr McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome (AS), to be "assessed in a British context".

And he refused three times to back the decision of Home Secretary Alan Johnson that the extradition to America should take place, according to the Daily Mail.

Mr McKinnon, 43, is wanted for trial on charges of hacking into US military networks.

His supporters say his only crime is being a "UFO eccentric" who searched for evidence of extra-terrestrials.

They argue he could be tried in the UK if the Government acted to halt his extradition but Mr Johnson said it would be illegal for him to intervene.

Mr Hain told the Mail: "I would have preferred it if I had been in the position to have a say on this - and the law is just following its course - to have had the Director of Public Prosecutions (Keir Starmer) made this decision.

"We could then have had a position where it could have been assessed in a British context - after all, he was sitting in his bedroom by a computer, as a kind of computer geek zapping the American defence system and therefore he was committing an offence on British soil."

Mr McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, told GMTV: "I was so upset when the Home Secretary spoke about 9/11, spoke about the people who died and mentioned Gary's name. It was almost like he was trying to incriminate him in some way, it's like some sort of smear campaign against a guy with Asperger's. It's ridiculous.

"So for Peter Hain to stand up and talk from the heart was so refreshing."

She said if he was taken to America with no family support it would cause mental breakdown and he would become suicidal.

"It's very hard but I just have to keep fighting because it's wrong, it's unjust and I'm determined that Gary is going to stay here.

"It's affected him mentally, emotionally, physically, he has terrible heart pains, he has fears, if someone touches his shoulder he jumps.

"To have that level of stress for such a long time and trying to keep a lid on it I'm just scared he's going to explode."

She argued the Home Secretary could intervene against the extradition in light of the Asperger's but he was choosing not to.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph today, Mayor of London Boris Johnson accused the Home Secretary of "passing the buck" by failing to intervene to prevent the extradition to America.

He said the British authorities' refusal to stop Mr McKinnon's removal would count as "one of the most protoplasmic acts of self-abasement since Suez".

In his weekly column for the newspaper, the mayor described Mr McKinnon as a "classic British nutjob" who should be protected by the Government rather than being "catapulted" across the Atlantic.

In a statement, the Home Secretary said Friday's High Court ruling, in which Mr McKinnon failed in his bid to avoid removal to America, made clear "it would be illegal for me to stop the extradition".

He said: "Mr McKinnon is accused of serious crimes and the US has a lawful right to seek his extradition, as we do when we wish to prosecute people who break our laws.

"He is accused of hacking into 97 US Army, Navy, Nasa and Defence Department computers concerned with national defence and security at a critical time immediately following the 9/11 attacks and leaving the military network vulnerable to intruders."

Mr Johnson added that his predecessor Jacqui Smith had "already sought and received clear assurances from the US that Mr McKinnon's health and welfare needs would be met, should he be extradited".

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who is standing in for Gordon Brown during the Prime Minister's absence on holiday, told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "If the Americans - as they have - have made out in court a case that this is an allegation of an offence of sufficient seriousness that they want him to stand trial in America, I don't think it should be for the British Government or any British politician to say we are going to second-guess the criminal justice system."

She went on: "If he is found guilty, then obviously straight away we will seek for him to serve any prison sentence - if he is sentenced to prison - back in this country.

"To that extent the Home Secretary, in terms of his welfare, is involved. But we don't think it is right for the Home Secretary to say, 'We think this person should be extradited but this other person shouldn't be put on trial'."