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UK to block extradition of computer hacker to US

UK Home Secretary Theresa May [official profile] announced Tuesday to the House of Commons [official website] that she would block the US extradition of British computer hacker, Gary McKinnon [BBC profile; advocacy website]. Relying on Article 3 of the Human Rights Act [text] concerning prohibition of torture, May announced she would stop McKinnon's extradition [AP report]. May's decision rests upon Home Office [official website] medical reports predicting McKinnon, who has clinical depression and Asperger syndrome, would likely commit suicide if extradited. McKinnon is accused of hacking into NASA, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army and Navy computers in violation of US computer laws [18 USC § 1030] but claims he was trying to find evidence of UFO activity and extraterrestrial technologies. May's announcement ends a decade-long battle against extradition to the US for McKinnon. In August 2008 McKinnon was nearly extradited when the European Court of Human Rights [official website] refused to reconsider the decision to send him to the US. British extradition arrangements, however, kept the case in judicial review for several years. Now that McKinnon will not be extradited to the US, British public prosecutors will decide whether he should face trial.

In 2010 a member of the UK coalition government indicated that McKinnon's extradition to the US would be delayed [JURIST report]. May considered an adjournment request from McKinnon's legal team and agreed to delay a scheduled judicial review in order to determine if he was medically fit for extradition. McKinnon was arrested by British police in 2002 and again in 2005. In 2008, the UK Parliament criticized extradition law after three UK Enron Bankers were extradited to the US [JURIST report]. Earlier this month the UK approved the extradition of terror suspects to the US [JURIST report] after ensuring the US would not seek the death penalty, try the defendants before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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