Theresa May blocks extradition of hacker with Asperger's to US
Disabled hacker Gary McKinnon won his decade-long extradition battle today after Home Secretary Theresa May blocked his extradition to the US on human rights grounds.
Mr McKinnon seized international headlines when he hacked into Pentagon and Nasa computer networks from his north London flat in 2002, deleting operating system files across the US army network and posting a message calling US foreign policy "akin to government-sponsored terrorism."
US attorneys had demanded he stand trial there, where he faced up to 60 years' imprisonment in a maximum-security prison.
But relatives and medical experts have warned that Mr McKinnon - diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome - was likely to kill himself if taken.
Ms May told the House of Commons she accepted the medical opinion.
"After careful consideration of all of the relevant material, I have concluded that Mr McKinnon's extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon's human rights," said Ms May.
"I have therefore withdrawn the extradition order against Mr McKinnon."
It was now up to the director of public prosecutions to decide whether he had a case to answer at home, the Home Secretary said.
Mr McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp praised the Home Secretary for doing "the right thing," while human rights charity Amnesty International's Jeremy Croft welcomed the decision as "a refreshing change."
Ms May was using the Human Rights Act exactly as intended, he said: "to protect vulnerable people when their human rights are at risk."
But the U-turn struck a sour note for some, coming less than a fortnight after Ms May signed off the extradition of five other men to the US on charges of providing material support to terrorist organisations.
Syed Talha Ahsan, who also has Asperger's, and Babar Ahmad, who spent eight years without charge or trial in British prisons, have pleaded not guilty to providing cash, recruits and equipment to insurgents in Afghanistan and Chechnya via their news website.
Mr Ahmad's family said they did not want Mr McKinnon's family to suffer as they had.
But Ms May's call was "a clear demonstration of double standards."
They said: "However, questions do need to be asked as to why within the space of two weeks, a British citizen with Asperger's accused of computer-related activity is not extradited, while two other British citizens, one with Asperger's, engaged in computer-related activity are extradited."
The We Are Babar Ahmad campaign's Dr Ismail Jalisi agreed.
Dr Jalisi said: "This is an unjust stance regarding the plight of two British citizens who are under duress under very similar circumstances."
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