Lib Dems aim to halt McKinnon extradition

The Lib Dems will push for the Nasa hacker's extradition to the US to be dropped no matter what the outcome of the upcoming general election
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

The Liberal Democrats will push for Gary McKinnon's extradition to be halted, no matter what the election outcome.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Monday that the extradition of McKinnon to the US on hacking charges should be stopped.

"We are absolutely against the extradition of Gary McKinnon," said the spokesperson. "However the chips fall [at the election], we will press for his extradition not to go ahead."

The latest ICM opinion polls put the party up ten points at 30 percent, two points ahead of Labour and three points behind the Conservatives for the 6 May general election.

The Lib Dem spokesperson declined to comment on what would happen in the event of a hung parliament, but said that should the Lib Dems form a government, the party would not only push for a halt to McKinnon's extradition, but address the extradition arrangements that the UK has with the US.

"One of the first pieces of legislation we have promised is a Freedom Bill to roll back the worst excesses of Labour's surveillance state," said the spokesperson. "A key part of this is rebalancing the unequal extradition treaty we have with the United States and halting unfair extraditions like that of Gary McKinnon."

The Conservatives have also expressed support for McKinnon, saying earlier this month that McKinnon should be tried in the UK. McKinnon has Asperger syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum.

"The Gary McKinnon case is one where there is a clear argument for it to be tried in this country, and our system should take health issues into account before considering deportation," a Conservative spokesperson told ZDNet UK.

The Labour Party had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, who campaigns on behalf of McKinnon, told ZDNet UK on Monday that she was grateful for the support the Liberal Democrats had given McKinnon.

"[Party leader] Nick Clegg came to Gary's last demo, but I get so scared that [the Lib Dems] might change if they have to form a coalition which includes [Labour home secretary] Alan Johnson," said Sharp.

Sharp is standing against justice minister Jack Straw in Blackburn at the upcoming general election in protest against the US/UK extradition treaty. Straw introduced the current treaty during his time as home secretary.

US prosecutors have asserted that McKinnon committed "the biggest military hack of all time", breaking into 97 military computers between 2001 and 2002, and causing $700,000 (£455,000) damage. McKinnon admits hacking US military systems, but denies causing appreciable damage, and claims he was searching for UFOs.

A judicial review, the latest round of an ongoing court battle over McKinnon's extradition, will be held on 25 and 26 May.

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