Lords to consider Nasa hacker appeal

Law lords are considering whether to hear Gary McKinnon's appeal against extradition to the US on hacking charges

Gary McKinnon, the Briton who has admitted hacking into Nasa's computer systems, may be able to appeal to the House of Lords against his extradition to the US.

According to a firm of solicitors acting on behalf McKinnon, the law lords will consider whether to grant leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

"There's been a bit of ambiguity about what they agreed to, but yesterday the House of Lords let us know they are considering whether to take the case," said Jeff Anderson, assistant to McKinnon's solicitor, on Wednesday. "They are still considering the case, and haven't concretely agreed to a hearing. They have confirmed a committee hearing to discuss whether they will hear the case."

McKinnon lost his Court of Appeal case in April, but his lawyers said at the time that the judges in the appeal court "definitely left the door open" for a further appeal to the law lords.

At the time, the Court of Appeal took a dim view of alleged coercion applied to McKinnon by US prosecutors, saying that it "viewed with a degree of distaste the way in which the American authorities are alleged to have approached the plea bargain negotiations" with McKinnon.

According to McKinnon and his counsel, during the plea bargaining negotiations, a US member of the prosecution team "threatened" McKinnon that, if he did not agree to the bargain offered, the prosecutors would push for the highest possible penalties and that he would be "turned over to New Jersey authorities to see him fry".

McKinnon's defence further alleged that the US said that, if he did not agree to the deal, there would be no chance of him serving his sentence in the UK near his friends and family.

McKinnon learnt on Tuesday that the law lords have agreed to listen to arguments by McKinnon's defence that the US authorities "acted in an oppressive and arbitrary manner" during the plea bargaining, according to Anderson.

McKinnon's hopes of avoiding extradition through proceedings in the UK now almost certainly rest on the outcome of the House of Lords appeal, said Anderson. "This probably is the end of the road in the UK. If things don't go Gary's way in the House of Lords, there's not really another avenue in the UK," he said.

If the Lords appeal fails, the European Court of Human Rights "could be a place to apply", said Anderson.

While he has accepted that he hacked into US government sites, McKinnon has consistently denied causing serious damage, maintaining that he was searching for evidence of UFOs.

According to McKinnon's friends, he was taken ill on 14 February with heart palpitations due to stress. Anderson confirmed that McKinnon had been "much better since" although he was still "under huge amounts of stress".

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