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MPs meet Home Sec to urge McKinnon extradition rethink

Another 11th hour appeal

Home secretary Alan Johnson is due to hold talks later on Wednesday with a cross-party delegation of MPs over the possible extradition of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon to the US.

Johnson is due to meet Labour's Michael Meacher, ex-shadow home secretary David Davis and Chris Huhne of the Lib Dems, The Daily Telegraph reports.

McKinnon, 43, who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome last year, has fought a four-year campaign against extradition that has gained the support of celebrities and politicians over recent months. McKinnon's long running fight against extradition suffered a severe setback last month after two senior judges rejected judicial reviews into the handling of the case by the CPS and Home Office.

Legal arguments centered on how an autistic person such as McKinnon might be expected to cope with a trial and likely imprisonment in the US, if extradited. Earlier failed appeals, which went all the way to the House of Lords last year, considered the rights and wrongs of alleged strongarm tactics by US authorities during plea-bargaining negotiations.

A further appeal to the new UK Supreme Court may be possible, but the focus of McKinnon's campaign has shifted towards applying pressure on UK government ministers to intervene in the case.

During a House of Commons debate, Johnson said his hands were tied and he was unable to intervene in extradition proceedings except in cases where the death penalty was involved. The cross-party delegation of MPs are due to present a leading counsel's opinion, disputing this interpretation of extradition law, to the Hone Secretary.

Former Labour minister Meacher, who organised the meeting, said: "Not only has the Home Secretary got the power but he has the duty to intervene in an extradition case even after the court process has ended if there is a real risk of a human rights breach should extradition proceed.

"Gary's medical condition is such that medical experts have concluded there is a grave risk to Mr McKinnon's health if he is extradited to the US. There is no reason why he cannot face charges in the UK for an act which took place in the UK."

The three MPs are due to meet McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, following the meeting. ®

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