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McKinnon's UK trial bid rejected by DPP

Health hearing becomes sole barrier against extradition

UK prosecutors has rejected the opportunity to prosecute Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon in Britain, despite his signed confession to hacking offences.

As part of his long-running fight against extradition to the US on hacking charges, McKinnon handed prosecutors a signed confession through his lawyers back in December. However, the Crown Prosecution Service turned down this offer in a letter to McKinnon's solicitors, received on Thursday, that claimed they had insufficient evidence to prosecute.

A statement from McKinnon's solicitors Kaim Todner explains: "Part of the problem with the Extradition Act 2003 is that the United States do not have to present a prima facie case and therefore have not provided evidence to us or the Crown Prosecution Service to support their appeal.”

“It is disappointing that the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] has not requested evidence from the United States prior to making this decision. This is a matter we will consider further," it added.

Despite the legal setback, a separate judicial review on whether Gary McKinnon's recent Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis ought to invalidate extradition proceedings remains in play. Judges have scheduled a hearing on this for some time after March 16.

A decision by judges that the Home Secretary was wrong to disregard McKinnon's medical condition in allowing extradition proceedings to continue would curtail extradition proceedings. This has become the former sysadmin's last best chance against avoiding a US trial for hacking into US government and military systems.

McKinnon's lawyers said they "remain hopeful" about these proceedings.

Failed appeals by McKinnon against extradition to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights last summer focused on alleged arm-twisting during plea-bargaining negotiations and the conditions McKinnon might face in US custody following a possible conviction.

McKinnon was only diagnosed with the autistic condition late last year, and the possible effect of a US trial and imprisonment on his health wasn't considered during earlier proceedings.

McKinnon's four year campaign against extradition has gained traction over recent months with the support of autism experts, who argue he doesn't deserve a custodial sentence anywhere, and politicians. Eighty MPs signed an early day motion urging the Home Secretary to seek assurances that McKinnon, because of his health, would be allowed to serve any jail time arising after a US trial in a British prison. London Mayor Boris Johnson has also lent his support to the beleaguered Brit.

In the latest and more politically significant intervention, a terror-law watchdog has intervened on McKinnon's behalf. Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, has written to the Home Secretary urging her to change her stance and curtail extradition proceeding on medical grounds, The Guardian reports. ®

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