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Clegg orders fresh review of UK extradition treaty

New hope for Gary McKinnon

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Supporters of accused NASA hacker Gary McKinnon scored a small political victory after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ordered a fresh review of the lopsided extradition treaty between the US and the UK.

Clegg broke ranks with the Government over a review issued last month that concluded the treaty wasn't biased. He has appointed ex-Liberal Democratic leader Sir Menzies Campbell to chair an inquiry that will revisit the fairness of the treaty. The results are expected to form the basis for the party's policy in the next general election, The Telegraph reports.

The extradition treaty was agreed to shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks and went into effect in Britain in 2004 and in the US two years later. It was promoted as a way to streamline the extradition of terrorist suspects between the two countries. It is now being invoked to forcibly transfer McKinnon to the US to face charges he hacked NASA computers.

Critics of the treaty say it is biased in favor of US officials. They cite figures claiming that since it went into effect 28 British citizens have been sent to the US for trial, compared with three Americans sent to the UK. What's more, critics say the standard of proof needed is uneven. The US is required to show only reasonable suspicion that someone is guilty of an offense, while UK officials must meet the much higher burden of probable cause to transfer an American.

Janice Sharp, the mother of McKinnon, said the review was “fantastic news.” She has long claimed her son suffers from Asperger's, a condition she says makes him a suicide risk if he is subjected to the rigors of extradition. She called last month's report, which was issued by a panel overseen by retired judge Sir Scott Baker, a “whitewash”.

The review ordered by Clegg is the second recent victory scored by McKinnon supporters. Earlier this week, UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve referred to the findings in Baker's report as only "guidelines" and said McKinnon may be tried in the UK rather than extradited.

Additional coverage from The Daily Mail is here. ®

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