High Court hands Lauri Love permission to appeal extradition to US

Meanwhile, US continues to bury its head in the sand over letter from 114 MPs

Lauri Love. Pic: Courage Foundation
Lauri Love. Photograph by the Courage Foundation.

Lauri Love, the alleged hacktivist from Stradishall, Suffolk, England, has been granted permission to appeal against his extradition to the United States.

The High Court has today granted Love, 32, permission to appeal against his handover to US authorities, which was initially agreed in Westminster Magistrates' Court last September.

Love is sought on three indictments alleging that he “carried out a series of cyber attacks against the websites and computer systems” of the US government, military, and private sector as part of series of online protests following the suicide of Aaron Swartz.

His defence had complained about the punitive nature of the US indictments, where he faces a maximum sentence of 99 years, far beyond the sentence he could receive in the UK, and warned that the American prison system would be incapable of managing Love's health conditions.

In a statement, Love said:

Every day you wake up to some good news is a blessing, and we can't take any blessings for granted these days. Good news comes scantly between crisis and calamity. I'm thankful the High Court have recognised the strength of our grounds for appeal and the great importance of the issues raised by the case.

I'm thankful also for the ongoing support and campaigning by family and friends, amongst whom I now include the 114 MPs who signed a letter requesting jurisdiction be ceded to the UK. Now it is for the High Court to join us all in asserting the sovereignty, the values, the justice and humanity of law in the UK.

Love, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, severe depression and severe eczema, is facing three extradition requests from separate US court districts for his alleged involvement in the online protests that followed the death of Aaron Swartz.

His case forms the first substantive test of the forum bar, which Theresa May announced when blocking the extradition of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, who also has Asperger's. The bar is intended to protect vulnerable individuals who could be the subject of legal process in the UK instead.

While Judge Tempia acknowledged Love's serious mental health issues, including severe depression, during his earlier trial – which featured multiple warnings that Lauri was certain to kill himself if extradited – she ruled that his extradition was not cause to invoke the forum bar.

Following that ruling, 114 UK MPs signed a joint letter to Barack Obama during his final month in office, asking that any proceedings against Love be allowed to take place in the UK. Neither the US administration nor the ambassador responded to the letter.

Love's solicitor, Karen Todner, said: "The reason permission has been granted is that the High Court acknowledge that the grounds raised some issues of great importance. We are delighted for this news for Lauri and will continue to do everything we can to ensure prevention of his extradition to the United States of America."

The human rights organisation Liberty has been granted permission to intervene in the appeal. A hearing date is yet to be scheduled. ®

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