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UK Supremes turn down McKinnon hearing

Pentagon hacker one step closer to extradition

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Updated Gary McKinnon has been refused leave to appeal to the newly-established UK Supreme Court against his extradition to the US on hacking charges.

The legal setback follows failed appeals to the House of Lords and European Court of Human Rights last year. In July two senior judges rejected judicial reviews into the handling of McKinnon's case by the Crown Prosecution Service and Home Office. McKinnon's diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome last year and its bearing on his possible extradition formed the cornerstone of these reviews.

In a statement, McKinnon's lawyers Kaim Todner expressed their disappointment at the latest legal decision.

"By refusing to certify points of law of public importance the High Court has prevented us from joining the appeal of Ian Norris at the Supreme Court."

The USA extradition case against Ian Norris, which also has human rights and medical considerations (prostate cancer), is due to be heard before UK Supreme Court on 30 November.

The Supreme Court decision seemingly removes legal obstacles to McKinnon's extradition. Home Secretary Alan Johnson has refused to intervene in the case.

McKinnon admits hacking into US military systems but denies US damage estimates, and has consistently fought to be tried in the UK during a four year campaign against extradition.

"The effect on Gary of these proceedings has been, and is, devastating. He is a highly vulnerable man in a very fragile state and this is a huge blow to him and his family," the Kaim Todner statement continues.

"The judgment by the High Court stated that the impressive medical evidence presented gave the judges no doubt that he will find extradition very difficult, that his mental health will suffer and that there are risks of his suicide."

Kaim Todner repeated its call, backed by the opposition Conservatives, to amend the unfair extradition treaty between the US and UK. Representatives of the Home Secretary have allowed 14 days for Kaim Todner to explore further legal options, including a possible appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The options look bleak but Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, said "we are not giving up... every avenue will be explored".

McKinnon was first arrested in 2002 after he was caught hacking into US military systems and NASA. The North London-based hacker said he broke into the computer systems as part of a hunt for information about anti-gravity propulsion systems and alien technology, supposedly harvested from UFOs before been hidden by the US military. Extradition proceedings only began in 2005.

Over recent months a diverse coalition of supporters - including Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Beirut hostage Terry Waite, the Daily Mail and many UK politicians across the political spectrum - have backed calls to try McKinnon in the UK. McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, has spearheaded this campaign, which has also attracted the support of autism charities and justice group Liberty.

Many in the IT community also feel that McKinnon has been unfairly singled out for harsh punishment.

"The IT community has been very supportive of the McKinnon campaign and today’s news will shock many," said Mark Harris, global director of SophosLabs.

"The consensus is that it is perhaps inappropriate to make an example of a UFO conspiracy theorist when serious crimes are still being carried out by financially-motivated hackers, stealing identities, sending spam and creating botnets." ®

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