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McKinnon family welcomes extradition treaty review

Fate of Pentagon hacker still rests in politicians' hands

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The coalition government's decision to review extradition law has been welcomed by family and supporters of Gary McKinnon, even though it's unlikely to have an immediate effect on his case.

Home Secretary Teresa May announced plans to review the UK's extradition arrangements on Tuesday in response to long-running complaints that the existing system, introduced in 2004, is unfair. US authorities are not required to present evidence in making extradition requests, a requirement of reciprocal extradition proceedings from the US to the UK.

The review, announced in a written statement to Parliament on Tuesday, will consider whether requesting states should be required to provide evidence and whether the US-UK Extradition Treaty is unbalanced, among other questions. The review is expected to take around a year, reporting back in summer 2011.

Criticism of the "one-sided" extradition treaty between the UK and US has been a cornerstone of the long-running campaign against attempts to extradite McKinnon to the US over alleged hacks on US military systems in 2000 and 2001. McKinnon was first arrested in 2002 but extradition proceedings only began in 2005, after the controversial treaty came into effect.

McKinnon and his supporters have been fighting for him to be tried in the UK, if anywhere, for more than five years in a high-profile campaign that has attracted the support of public figures, disability charities and the Daily Mail.

Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mum, the dynamo powering a campaign that has attracted the support of many UK politicians and public figures such as Terry Waite and Pink Floyd frontman Dave Gilmour, welcomed the extradition review while stressing that her son's fate still rests with politicians.

"If they put a hold on all extraditions until the changes are made and the treaty re-written that would do it but is too far away," Sharp told El Reg. "Even after the results of the review they would have to give six months notice before changing the treaty.

"I think that Theresa May/the coalition will eventually rule that Gary can't be extradited because of deterioration in his mental health. Alternatively Obama's and Cameron's teams will agree Gary can be tried in UK," she added.

More thoughts on the review by supporters of McKinnon can be found on the Free Gary support blog here. ®

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