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McKinnon lawyers push for UK trial

Joker played in attempt to avoid US extradition

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Lawyers for alleged Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon have written to UK prosecutors seeking a trial in Britain, in a move designed to frustrate attempts to extradite the UFO enthusiast for trial in the US.

The Crown Prosecution Service is evaluating a request from McKinnon's solicitors offering a guilty plea in a UK trial for offences against the Misuse of Computers Act, the UK's computer hacking law. The Guardian reports any prosecution and punishment in Britain would make extradition to the US unlikely.

McKinnon and his supporters have fought a long-running campaign to avoid his extradition to the US. The Scot, who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, has the support of autism charities.

A judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision to disregard his recent diagnosis in pressing ahead with McKinnon's extradition is scheduled for 20 January.

The failure of McKinnon's extradition appeal to the House of Lords and a related petition to the European Court of Human Rights last year meant that the Scot's legal options had seemingly shrunk to an oral review of the Home Secretary's decision before a judge. The possibility of a UK prosecution is therefore something of a wildcard.

McKinnon faces a seven-count US indictment alleging that he broke into 97 US government, NASA and military systems during 2001 and 2002. The London-based Scot admitted his action when he was arrested and taken in for questioning by officers from the former National Hi-Tech Crime Unit in 2002. According to McKinnon, British officers who questioned him spoke of lenient treatment and a UK trial if he pleaded guilty to hacking offences. US attempts to extradite McKinnon only commenced in 2005.

Prosecutors in the US allege that McKinnon caused damages in excess of $700,000 in running the "biggest military hack ever". McKinnon admits breaking into systems in his hunt for evidence that the US military had harvested advanced technology from crashed UFOs, but denies doing any damage. ®

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