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UK Politics

Home Secretary puts case of Pentagon hacker on hold

The campaign to halt Gary McKinnon's imminent extradition to the United States to face hacking charges was given a boost yesterday when the Home Secretary put his case on hold.

American prosecutors want Mr McKinnon to face trial in the US for a string of alleged cyber attacks on Pentagon and Nasa computers in 2001 which could land him in a maximum-security prison for up to 60 years.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has agreed to an adjournment of a judicial review that was supposed to start within days and would have decided the 44-year-old's fate. Lawyers for Mr McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, received a fax from the Home Secretary yesterday saying that she had agreed to an adjournment in order to review medical evidence over whether their client is fit to face trial.

For those who have campaigned on behalf of Mr McKinnon it has been one of the few good pieces of news after nearly a decade of struggle.

"It's a highly positive step," said his lawyer, Karen Todner. "It's the first time that a Home Secretary has agreed to look at the case and recognise that they have discretion to intervene. We are hopeful, given previous statements from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, that Gary will not be sent to the States."

When they were in opposition, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg said that Mr McKinnon should be tried in the UK. Had the judicial review gone ahead, Mr McKinnon's lawyers would have contested the decision by the previous Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, that he was unable to intervene in extradition proceedings. Lawyers would have also argued that forcing a man with Asperger's to face trial overseas was "wholly unreasonable" and that crimes committed on British soil should be tried in Britain.