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US extradition could push McKinnon 'towards suicide'

'Fragile' UFO enthusiast fights on

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Gary McKinnon is "too fragile" to extradite to the US to face trial over his admitted computer hacking offences, his lawyers argue.

Barristers representing McKinnon presented expert testimony that the stress of a US extradition and trial could push the 43 year-old, who suffers from Aspberger's Syndrome, towards psychosis or even suicide, the BBC reports. The evidence was presented during a High Court judicial review on former home secretary Jacqui Smith's decision last October to allow extradition proceedings against McKinnon to continue, following his recent diagnosis with a mild form of autism.

McKinnon's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, argued that the Home Secretary had underestimated the threat to his client's mental health that an extradition and trial in the US poses. He described McKinnon as "an eccentric person who has passionate views about UFOs" rather than a dangerous hacker and described extradition to face a US trial as "unnecessary, avoidable and disproportionate", The Times reports.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie will be asked to rule on whether health concerns present sufficient reason to block extradition at the end of two-day hearing, due to end later on Wednesday.

McKinnon and his supporters have long campaigned for him to be tried in the UK, if anywhere. UK prosecutors turned down a request back in February, on the basis of a written confession, to allow a trial in the UK on the grounds that evidence and witnesses to McKinnon's wrongdoing were all in the US. This decision has become the subject of a separate application for judicial review.

The former sysadmins' disability was only diagnosed by experts last August and played no part in earlier court proceedings, including failed appeals to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights last summer.

McKinnon admits taking advantage of weak security to hack into US military and NASA systems back in 2001 and 2002 but denies US claims that he caused $700,000 of damage in the process. He was first arrested in 2002 by UK cops from the former NHTCU, before the US began extradition proceedings back in 2005. ®

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