Lords debate McKinnon 'torture'

Summary:Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon is undergoing 'psychological torture' over an impasse surrounding extradition proceedings to the US, according to an Ulster Unionist peer.Lord Maginnis of Drumglass introduced a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday around the predicament of McKinnon, who is currently caught in legal limbo while his lawyers and the Home Office discuss a medical evaluation.

Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon is undergoing 'psychological torture' over an impasse surrounding extradition proceedings to the US, according to an Ulster Unionist peer.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass introduced a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday around the predicament of McKinnon, who is currently caught in legal limbo while his lawyers and the Home Office discuss a medical evaluation. McKinnon has already been evaluated by a number of autism experts for risk of suicide should he be extradited.

"Is it not ironic that a parliament which has voted against the lengthy detention of criminals should keep a young man suffering from the condition known as Asperger's syndrome in psychological torture for more than 3,300 days?" said Maginnis. "Is it not time for the Home Office to liaise with those who have expertise in autism?"

Home secretary Theresa May wants a medical assessment by experts recommended by the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, and is waiting for consent from McKinnon's lawyers, Home Office security spokesman Lord Wallace said.

"Negotiations are under way about the choice of an expert or a panel of experts, and we are assured by Mr McKinnon's solicitors that they will consent to this," said Wallace, who is Liberal Democrat. "That is what we are waiting for. We have to recognise that these are complicated legal issues which have to be dealt with by legal means."

Conservative peer Baroness Browning said that McKinnon is now very withdrawn, and "spends every day behind closed curtains".

Lord Marks asked why the Home Office needed more assessments, as McKinnon had already been evaluated as a suicide risk by Professor Jeremy Turk and Professor Declan Murphy, both of whom give evidence to the government about autism. Wallace replied that is was because Turk and Murphy have given opinions to the government that the Home Office had gone to the Department of Health for its opinion.

McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp told ZDNet UK on Thursday that McKinnon "is not bearing up" to the prolonged extradition battle.

"We're still fighting to have Gary assessed for suicide risk by a psychiatrist who's an expert in Asperger's," said Sharp. "I was pleased at how well the Lords from all political persuasions spoke up for Gary, and how knowledgeable they were."

Topics: Security

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Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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