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Hain breaks ranks with Cabinet over McKinnon extradition

Deputy PM tries to defuse growing row

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Cabinet splits are appearing as political pressure over the extradition of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon grows.

Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales, broke ranks with his colleagues last weekend to call for McKinnon to be tried in the UK, the Daily Mail reports.

The move follows a rejection by two senior judges of McKinnon's appeal that his recent diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome ought to block his extradition. The results of the judicial review, delivered last Friday, are subject to appeal for 28 days.

Failing a successful legal appeal McKinnon's only hope of avoiding extradition involves persuading politicians to intervene.

An opposition motion calling for a review of the Extradition Act was defeated in Parliament last month after previous Labour supporters of McKinnon reversed their position. During the debate Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he had no authority to intervene in the case or in any extradition actions unless the death penalty was involved.

Legal experts dispute this interpretation of the law. The Extradition Act is controversial because the US authorities only have to say they want a subject for trial on an indictable offence whereas UK authorities hoping to extradite someone from the US have to produce evidence to establish probable cause.

The high profile campaign on McKinnon's behalf continues to push for a UK trial. McKinnon's mum, Janis Sharp, has called on US president Barrack Obama to intervene and for the Home Secretary to reconsider his position. Johnson should be "standing up for British citizens", she argued, adding that her son could easily be tried in the UK.

Deputy PM Harriet Harman appeared to political talk shows and breakfast programmes over the weekend reiterating the line that the UK government couldn’t intervene in McKinnon's extradition but had obtained assurances on his treatment by the US penal system. Harman told the BBC that the UK government will press to secure McKinnon's early repatriation following any US trial.

"If he is found guilty, then obviously straight away we will seek for him to serve any prison sentence – if he is sentenced to prison – back in this country," Harman told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, The Guardian reports.

She rejected the accusation that the extradition treaty between the US and UK was one-sided.

"If the Americans have made out in court a case that this is an allegation of an offense of sufficient seriousness that they want him to stand trial in America, I don't think it should be for the British Government or any British politician to say we are going to second-guess the criminal justice system," she said. ®

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