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McKinnon battles renewed Obama-era extradition push

Gary's mum briefs the Reg on latest manoeuvres

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Family and supporters of Gary McKinnon remain confident that their campaign against his extradition to the US will ultimately prove successful, despite the insistence of a senior Obama government law official that the alleged hacker ought to stand trial in the US.

Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, vowed that the Obama administration will "take all of the necessary steps" to have McKinnon extradited and "held accountable for the crimes that he committed". The statement, weeks before Obama is due to visit London, indicates that the Obama administration has the same desire to pursue McKinnon's extradition as its Bush-era counterpart. Supporters of McKinnon, who have maintained a high-profile campaign against his extradition since June 2005, had hoped that changes in governments in the US and UK might bring a change of heart.

Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mum, told El Reg that statements by a top US official "pronounced Gary guilty on British television" (link here) and were evidence that her son would be unlikely to get a fair trial for allegedly hacking into US military and government systems back in 2001 and 2002 – if he were to be extradited.

The fate of McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and is considered a potential suicide risk if exposed to the stress of a US trial and likely imprisonment, now appears to rest with a review of medical evidence by Home Secretary Theresa May.

"Theresa May is still deciding whether to refuse to extradite," Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mum, told El Reg. "The Home Office wants Gary to be assessed for suicide risk by a doctor with no expertise in Aspergers and Gary is insisting on any further assessment being by one single psychiatrist with expertise in Aspergers and suicide risk." She added: "Gary has been assessed in April by Dr Vermeulen, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who has worked in Broadmoor for 15 years and in secure units for 15 years prior to that. Dr Vermeulen is highly experienced in suicide risk and has the required expertise in Aspergers in order to assess Gary for suicide risk. He saw Gary on three occasions and his report on Gary has been served on the Home Office."

The McKinnon case was appealed up to the House of Lords and across to the European Court of Human Rights prior to McKinnon's diagnosis with Asperger's in August 2008. Judges have agreed to put a hold on further proceedings since, pending a decision from the Home Office based on an assessment of new medical evidence.

The McKinnon campaign is continuing to apply political pressure while it waits for the Home Secretary's decision. "Lord Ken Maginnis has submitted six highly relevant questions re: Gary to Lord William Wallace, the whip for the Lords. The questions have to be answered by 18 May," Sharp told El Reg.

The questions seek to reveal what, if any, recent communication there has been between Home Office and the US administration directly concerning Gary McKinnon. Another question seeks an answer on what "consideration the Home Office has given to the 2009 statement by the Lord Justice Burnton that 'Gary (McKinnon) could be tried in either the UK or the US' and whether the Home Secretary has considered and made a decision based on this opinion".

In addition, the government will be asked to justify whether the legal process in the case can be allowed to run indefinitely. The last of the six questions tabled by Lord Maginnis asks: "What are the criteria for deciding whether a court process, as in the Gary McKinnon case, has 'run out of time'; and whether in the case of Mr McKinnon this is exclusively a UK legal decision or dependent on the US concurrence?" ®

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