UK government to reconsider US extradition of alleged hacker

[JURIST] A member of the newly formed UK coalition government indicated Thursday that the extradition of alleged hacker Gary McKinnon [BBC profile; advocacy website] to the US will be delayed. Home Secretary Theresa May [official profile] considered an adjournment request from McKinnon's legal team and agreed to delay [press release] a scheduled judicial review in order to determine if he is medically fit for extradition. McKinnon was arrested by British police in 2002 and indicted [text, PDF] by US authorities later that year on charges of hacking NASA, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army, and Navy computers in violation of US computer laws [18 USC s. 1030 text]. The British government granted the 2005 US extradition request, but McKinnon's lawyer appealed, alleging that US authorities had told McKinnon that if he did not plead guilty to the charges, he could be sentenced to life in prison since each of the seven counts against him is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine [indictment press release]. McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, lost an appeal [JURIST report] to the UK High Court in London last July. May has indicated [Times Online report] she will carefully consider the UK's extradition treaty with the US as well as McKinnon's medical history before she determines if the extradition order should stand.

The UK's new coalition government has shown a willingness to reexamine existing legislation. On Tuesday, the government announced they will review [JURIST report] the country's Human Rights Act [BBC backgrounder] after two Pakistani terror suspects successfully avoided deportation by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission [official website] due to concerns for their safety. The Human Rights Act has been a point of contention between liberal and conservative groups in the UK. In 2006, then-prime minister Tony Blair called for an amendment to the act to allow the government greater discretion to protect public safety, while conservative leaders called for the act to be repealed [JURIST reports]. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged the new UK government to continue its support of the act last week in addition to a request for the government to set up a judiciary inquiry [JURIST report] on torture [JURIST news archive] allegations. The rights group claimed that allegations of complicity in the torture of terrorism suspects have badly damaged the nation's reputation and that steps need to be taken to restore the nation's reputation as "a nation that respects human rights."

 

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