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Promoter hunts stars for McKinnon benefit gig

Rock against extradition

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Updated Rock band Marillion have offered to take part in a gig in support of accused Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon with proceeds going to autism charities, according to local media reports.

Ross Hemsworth, managing director of Glastonbury Radio has taken on the role of promoter to write to 100 bands asking them to perform at a benefit concert next month, the Hampstead and Highgate Express reports. The Rock Against Injustice concert aims to highlight concerns about McKinnon's plight as well as wider worries about the UK's extradition treaty with the US.

A galaxy of stars including the Kaiser Chiefs, Madonna, George Michael, Brian May and Jamiroquai have been invited to take part in the gig. How many of these celebs will respond, especially on such short notice, is open to question but 80s prog rockers Marillion appear to be well up for the job. Mark Kelly, keyboardist for Marillion, told local reporters that as something of a computer geek himself he symphathised with McKinnon's plight.

"I thought he [McKinnon] seemed quite harmless. He was only looking for UFOs. His story struck a chord with me. When I heard he was being extradited, it seemed so unjust. He shouldn't be made an example of just because of American incompetence," Kelly said.

Hemsworth, UK director of the International UFO Congress, is clearly keen to do everything he can to help a fellow UFO enthusiast in peril. He also hopes to recruit pop stars to take part in a charity recording of a track written by McKinnon, entitled Only a Fool, at London's famous Abbey Road studios.

All proceeds from the concert and the record will go towards funding the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (a mild form of autism) in August.

McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, was unavailable for immediate comment on the charity gig idea at the time of going to press. A spokesman for the FreeGary support campaign welcomed the sympathetic quotes from Marillion band members but added "whether that translates into an actual concert in time remains to be seen".

The Scot has run a long campaign against extradition the the US, where he faces faces seven charges of hacking into US government and military systems from his then girlfriend's home in Crouch End during 2001 and 2002. He admits hacking but denies causing damage. To US prosecutors McKinnon is the "biggest military hacker of all time", but the former sysadmin describes himself as a bumbling amateur, one of many hackers to have infiltrated US military systems, looking for suppressed evidence on UFOs.

McKinnon has suffered a string of legal setbacks in his fight against extradition. The House of Lords to denied his appeal against extradition and the European Court of Justice washed its hands of the case earlier this year. Lawyers acting on behalf of McKinnon were refused a written judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision not to suspend extradition proceedings following his recent diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome, but an oral hearing has been scheduled for 5 December. ®

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