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5.20.2010 Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon wins extradition reprieve

From Times Online

The extradition of a hacker who broke into the Pentagon's computer network has been put on hold after an intervention from the Home Secretary today.

Theresa May is looking at medical evidence to determine whether Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is said by experts to be suicidal, is fit to be extradited to America. He has admitted hacking into Pentagon files before and after the September 11 attacks.

If convicted he could face 60 years in jail but the review by Mrs May, the sixth home secretary to deal with the long-running case, opens the possibility of prosecution in the UK Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, had refused to prevent Mr McKinnon being sent for trial in the US. A judicial review of that decision had been due to start next week and was seen by supporters of the self-confessed “bumbling computer nerd” as the last chance to keep him in this country.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary has considered the proposal from Gary McKinnon's legal team and has agreed an adjournment should be sought. An application to the court is being made today." Mr McKinnon's lawyer, Karen Todner, said that she hoped Mrs May would make a decision on whether he was fit to be extradited in a matter of weeks.

Ms Todner said: "The Secretary of State, having recently taken office and having received further representations from the claimant's representatives, wishes to have appropriate time fully to consider the issues in the case." She said that she hoped the decision was a “signal of a more compassionate and caring Home Secretary".

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were sympathetic to Mr McKinnon’s case when they were in opposition and the Tories said that they would change the law if they came to power so that cases like his could be tried in the UK.

Last year David Cameron said that if Mr McKinnon had questions to answer there was “a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court”.

Mr McKinnon, 44, from North London, admitted breaking in to secret military computers but said that he was looking for evidence of UFOs and had no malicious intent.

Last night his mother, Janis Sharp, said: “Obviously, the Home Secretary reconsidering the case would be good news but we will only be happy if we are told it is all over.”