The situation for Asperger’s computer hacker Gary McKinnon took a turn for the better yesterday with the UK High Court concluded that extraditing Gary to the USA to face charges there may be a breach of his human rights.
Gary McKinnon would face a prison sentence of up to sixty years if extradited to the USA for hacking into US military and NASA computers from a laptop computer in his then-girlfriend’s London flat. Gary admits breaching the systems but claims that he was looking for evidence of UFOs. Gary has said he is willing to stand trial in the UK where given his Asperger’s syndrome, the offence may not even involve a custodial sentence.
The judge stated that evidence suggesting Gary would be at high risk of suicide in a US supermax jail was “as yet unchallenged”. This is a major change from the position taken by the UK High Court in previous hearings – and may yet require the UK Home Secretary to refuse to surrender Gary to the US government.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the UK National Autistic Society, is on record as saying: “We are delighted that Gary has been granted the right to a Judicial Review of the Home Secretary’s decision.
The UK government has a long history of refusing to extradite those on its soil to third world countries where they may face harsh, oppressive or disproportionate penalties for past misdemeanors. It seems to me the only difference here is the relative power of the country seeking the extradition.
When Gary’s Judicial Review happens later in the year, I hope that Gary’s own human rights and vulnerability arising from his Asperger’s syndrome will be given proper consideration against the political pressure being brought to bear on the UK authorities by their more powerful cousins across the Atlantic in Washington.