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New Turing petition calls for criminal pardon

Originator of original government apology petition describes move as a 'mistake'

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A petition for the UK government to pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing for his criminal conviction for homosexuality has attracted more than 6,000 signatures.

The latest e-petition is different from the successful petition two years ago calling on the British Government asking to apologise for its persecution of Alan Turing over his homosexuality. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologised in September 2009, describing Turing's treatment as "appalling".

However John Graham-Cumming, the British programmer who originated the original petition, is not supporting the criminal pardon petition because he believes to pardon only Turing would be unjust to other men convicted of the same consensual sexual acts, among other reasons explained in a blog post here. He describes the latest e-petition as a "mistake".

"I am strongly opposed to pardoning Turing for three reasons: the main one of which is that to pardon Turing would actually create injustice," Graham-Cumming told El Reg. "You either pardon all the gay men convicted (including, most importantly, those that are still living with criminal convictions) or you do nothing."

"If you pardon Turing alone then it does nothing for those people who must live with a conviction for these past crimes," he added.

The petition (text below) to the Justice Department expresses the hope that a posthumous pardon for Turing "may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected" to the same laws.

We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' with another man and was forced to undergo so-called 'organo-therapy' - chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the UK government and UK history. A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.

The Turing criminal pardon petition, opened last month, remains open until 23 November next year. ®

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