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Judges set timetable for McKinnon case resolution

Pentagon hacking suspect has been waiting for 10 YEARS...

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Senior judges have set a timetable to speed up resolution in the long-running Gary McKinnon extradition case, effectively setting a deadline for the Home Office to respond to evidence that McKinnon is too infirm to withstand the stress of a US trial and likely imprisonment over alleged Pentagon hacking offences.

The case was listed for a full hearing in July after two judges (Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Cranstone) heard that the Home Secretary Theresa May was still considering medical evidence that Asperger's sufferer McKinnon would be a suicide risk if extradited to the US to face charges of hacking into US military computers back in 2001 and 2002.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing McKinnon, said that there would be no need to stage further hearings in the case if May ruled in McKinnon's favour.

Fitzgerald said the medical evidence showed McKinnon was "suffering from a serious mental disorder and there is a serious risk of suicide if extradited".

"We hope it will never come back to court," he said. Arguments were also advanced that McKinnon ought to be allowed to complete his current treatment programme irrespective of what happens in the extradition proceedings against him.

McKinnon, 45, admits hacking into US government systems during 2001 and 2002 to look for evidence of UFOs but denies causing any damage. He was first arrested by detectives from the former NHTCU in 2002, long before extradition proceedings began in 2005. Subsequent legal proceedings have included appeals in the case all the way up to the House of Lords as well as a set of three judicial reviews into the handling of the case by ministers and others.

The Scots-born hacker's family and friends have long called for him to be tried in the UK, if anywhere. The Free Gary campaign has become a cause célèbre over the years, attracting the support of musicians, politicians and other public figures. The campaign focused attention on US-UK extradition requirements, which critics argue are unfairly biased because US extradition requests need not be accompanied by any evidence. ®

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