The Home Secretary Alan Johnson is under renewed pressure tonight to reconsider the impending extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States after Peter Hain became the most senior member of the Cabinet to break ranks with the Government and come out in support of the hacker.
The Welsh Secretary refused three times to back the decision of his ministerial colleague that Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger's Syndrome, should be extradited to the US. Mr Hain said that the self-confessed hacker should be tried "in a British context" instead.
Mr Johnson has claimed that it would be illegal to stop Mr McKinnon's extradition on charges relating to a series of hacks on American military computers in 2001 and 2002. But a number of legal experts have disputed this claim.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Hain said: "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) make 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 also hit out at the Home Secretary yesterday after he wrote in a Sunday newspaper that Mr McKinnon was accused of "serious crimes" allegedly carried out "shortly after the attacks of 9/11 which killed nearly 3,000 US citizens".