Nasa hacker loses final legal challenge

Gary McKinnon now faces deportation to the US to face charges of hacking Nasa and military installations

Gary McKinnon has lost his legal challenge against extradition to the US to face charges of hacking Nasa and military installations.

McKinnon had applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for it to hear an appeal against his extradition. Under 'Rule 39', citizens can make an emergency application to halt extradition proceedings if they believe their human rights will be infringed upon.

McKinnon's legal team on Thursday sent out a statement saying his application had been denied. "Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Mr McKinnon's application for Rule 39 Interim Relief," the lawyers said on the statement.

Two weeks ago, McKinnon's legal team submitted his application to the ECHR. Under the terms of the application, the UK government could not extradite McKinnon. This legal block has now been lifted.

"The temporary prohibition of our client's extradition as granted by the ECHR on 12 August is now effectively lifted and the authorities of the United Kingdom are now free to extradite our client to the United States," the legal team said in the statement.

Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor, told on Thursday that McKinnon had run out of legal-challenge options. "In terms of legal challenges and court proceedings, we've gone as far as we can," Todner said.

However, Gary McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Todner said she had written to home secretary Jacqui Smith asking that McKinnon be tried in the UK on medical grounds.

"We've written to the Secretary of State asking her to reconsider and keep [McKinnon] in the country," said Todner. "We've asked for two weeks to put the medical evidence before her."

Should that request be turned down by the Home Secretary, McKinnon could be extradited within two weeks. Todner said that it normally takes 10 days to sort out the flights. McKinnon would not be taken into custody — instead, Todner said that normally, the police contact the solicitor asking that the accused surrender to a police station a couple of hours before take-off.

Should McKinnon be found guilty of the charges laid against him, he faces up to 60 years in a US jail. McKinnon has admitted hacking into the US systems, but has always maintained he was searching for UFOs. "His family are distraught," Todner said.

Todner added that the alleged offences were committed on British soil, and that the prosecution should be carried out by the UK authorities. "Our client now faces the prospect of prosecution and imprisonment thousands of miles away from his family in a country in which he has never set foot," she said.