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Terror law boss backs Gary McKinnon's fight: New support for Asperger's victim facing extradition|
By James Slack and Michael Seamark: The Daily Mail
Last updated at 7:54 AM on 06th July 2009
The Home Secretary has been warned by his own adviser on terror laws not to allow the extradition of autistic computer hacker Gary McKinnon.
In a blistering letter, Lord Carlile tells Alan Johnson that placing Gary at the mercy of the U.S. courts would be 'disproportionate, unnecessary and unconscionable'.
It adds huge weight to the Daily Mail's campaign on Gary's behalf and places enormous political pressure on Mr Johnson to stop the extradition, taking place under a treaty passed ostensibly to fight terrorism.
The Home Office has so far refused to intervene, saying it has the power to halt extradition in only very limited circumstances - and the courts have said these are not met in Gary's case.
But Lord Carlile, a respected QC, believes this claim is 'wholly wrong in law and should not be used as justification for the flawed Home Office decision to extradite this unfortunate British citizen'.
To add insult to injury, the British taxpayer is being made to foot the bill for doing the Americans' 'dirty work' in extraditing Gary, who hacked into Pentagon and NASA computers while searching for proof of alien life and 'little green men'.
The letter from Lord Carlile is a significant boost for 43-year-old Gary, who could face a 60-year sentence and die in jail if tried in the U.S.
He faces being extradited under a controversial Act ostensibly passed to allow terrorists to be seized.
The Daily Mail is calling on the Home Secretary to halt Gary's extradition on the grounds that forcing a man with Asperger's Syndrome to serve a long prison service in the U.S. would be catastrophic for his mental health.
He faces six charges relating to the hacking of 97 U.S. government computers, including the Pentagon and NASA.
The maximum sentence on each charge is ten years. But Gary, from North London, could be prosecuted in the UK, where his crimes were committed, and sentenced to a maximum five years in jail under the Computer Misuse Act.
If Mr Johnson halts the extradition, Gary will automatically be charged and punished by the Crown Prosecution Service - in common with several other British hackers accused of computer offences in the U.S.
Lord Carlile, a former Liberal Democrat MP, has been the Government's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation since 2001.
He has a long-standing interest in Gary's case and has consistently placed pressure on the Home Office to stop the extradition.
In his letter to Mr Johnson, he says: 'As parliamentarians, I believe we have a duty to protect the vulnerable and even the eccentric.
'Mr McKinnon has had the shadow of extradition hanging over him for some five years already, during which time he could have been tried, sentenced and perhaps served any prison term, were he to have been prosecuted in the UK.
'Extraditing him now would be disproportionate, unnecessary and avoidable. The alternatives are not extradition or no prosecution: they are extradition versus domestic prosecution.'
The two-page letter goes on: 'I see no disadvantage to either country, or otherwise, for the case against Mr McKinnon being prosecuted here. Conversely, were Mr McKinnon to be extradited and then suffer the consequences predicted by the UK's leading experts in autism spectrum disorders, the decision not to exercise the powers of your office to try him here would prove unconscionable.'
Crown Prosecution Service lawyers - entirely funded by the UK public - have been told that they have no option but to work towards extraditing Gary to the U.S.
Experts believe the final bill, including the cost of Home Office lawyers, judicial reviews and contested court cases all the way to the House of Lords and Europe, could be more than £1million although London Mayor Boris Johnson says it could be many times that figure.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'Ministers are sitting on their hands as taxpayers foot the huge bill for court fees.
'If Gary McKinnon were to be tried in the UK the money would be well spent as our justice system would take into account the full circumstances of the case and would have a proper perspective on the crime of which he is accused.'
The main complaint over the UK's extradition treaty with the U.S. is that it allows British citizens to be seized on little or no evidence while the criteria for extraditing Americans are far more exacting.
In a letter to the Mail, Security Minister Lord West denied that the extradition treaty with the U.S. is 'lopsided'.
He said: 'Extradition is a key crime-fighting measure in our increasingly globalised world; introducing further bars to extradition from the UK would be a step backwards.'