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Blow for McKinnon as extradition treaty ruled 'not biased'

Mum fears Pentagon hacker's fate is sealed

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Extradition arrangements between the US and UK are not biased against British suspects, a review of the controversial extradition treaty concluded on Tuesday.

The ruling is a setback for supporters of alleged Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon and others who have campaigned against the 2003 treaty, which they continue to argue is one-sided.

Conservative and Lib Dem politicians backed the fight against the extradition agreement while in opposition. However, a review, commissioned by the government and led by retired judge Sir Scott Baker, has decided that the arrangements are fair. His probing could not find fault in the treaty, which does not require UK authorities to make a preliminary case for extradition from the US while US authorities are not obliged to present any evidence when requesting extradition.

"The UK-US extradition arrangements were examined in great detail and the panel concluded that the widespread perception that they operate in an imbalanced manner is not justified," it said, according to Reuters.

"There is no 'practical difference' between the information required of both countries when requesting extradition," the review added.

The panel rejected calls for the creation of legislation that would allow a British extradition target to be tried in the UK if the alleged crime was said to have taken place on British soil.

McKinnon, who was first arrested in 2002, is accused of accessed Pentagon systems from his home in north London while hunting for evidence of conspiracy between the US government and space aliens. He denies causing any damage. A high-profile campaign against his extradition is now entering its seventh year.

Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mum, described the extradition review as a "whitewash" and a "betrayal of UK citizens and UK justice".

"It’s a sad day for British justice," Sharp said. "I’m shocked and saddened that anyone with the interests of British people at heart can betray their own people by coming out and saying that this treaty is equal when everyone, absolutely everyone, knows it is a blatant whitewash produced to appease the American government."

Supporters of the Free Gary campaign cited figures suggesting nine times as many UK people had been extradited to the US compared to US citizens extradited to the UK.

During his fight against extradition, McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. McKinnon's fate now hinges on a review by Home Secretary Theresa May of medical evidence suggesting he is too weak to cope with the consequences of extradition to the US, a high-profile trial and imprisonment if convicted.

McKinnon's mum said she believed a decision had already been reached. "I'm sure a decision must already have been made on Gary, as the Home Office have had more than enough evidence in order to refuse to extradite, if that's what they want to do," she said.

"In Gary's medical reports he clearly reaches the bar for extradition to be refused; it is now up to our government to do the right thing and to end Gary's nine-and-a-half-year nightmare as soon as possible," she added.

The Extradition Act 2003's arrangements are in place with all EU countries, the US and 23 others – including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Turkey. The review also accepted European arrest warrants as basically sound, much to the dismay of campaigners.

"We don't just disagree with this review but are completely baffled by it," said Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights charity Liberty. "This is not a court judgment, merely policy advice, and government cannot abdicate its responsibility to honour the promises of both Coalition parties in opposition."

She added: "Britain's rotten extradition system stinks of human rights abuse and rank hypocrisy. It's time we stopped parcelling people off around the world like excess baggage and remembered the duty of all governments to protect their people and treat them fairly." ®

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