Wikipedia founder calls for meeting with home secretary over student’s extradition

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Wikipedia founder calls for meeting with home secretary over student’s extradition

Warwick Ashford

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has called for a meeting with home secretary Theresa May after an unprecedented response to his online campaign to block UK student Richard O’Dwyer’s extradition to the US.

O’Dwyer faces up to ten years in prison for creating a website, TVShack.net, which linked to places to watch TV and movies online. O'Dwyer, who was still a teenager when he set up the TVShack.net website, is accused of breaching copyright.

But a Change.org petition started by Wales has been backed by over 215,000 people in less than two weeks, breaking all records for a UK petition on the site and drawing backing from cross party MPs.

A Yougov poll published today shows overwhelming public support for O'Dwyer's case, with 70% of UK adults saying that they do not think that he should be extradited to the US. Only one in ten say he should face trial in the US. 

Wales said: “The home secretary continues to ignore hundreds of thousands of citizens, the UK tech community, business leaders, celebrities and MPs from all parties on this issue. She should be very clear that we are not going to go away and new supporters are joining the campaign all the time. I urge her to meet with myself and Richard’s mother, Julia, as soon as possible.”

Julia O’Dwyer, said: “I can’t believe that Theresa May has not had the good grace to respond to this campaign so far. I had hoped that as an elected representative in a country that holds values of freedom so dear, she would have made some sort of response. I could lose my son for 10 years to a US prison for something that isn't even a crime in the UK. I have been a taxpayer for my whole working life and now, when I need our government the most, they have totally failed me.”

In March, home secretary Theresa May approved the extradition of the computer science student to the US to face trial for copyright breach.

Wales’ petition calls on the home secretary to stop the extradition on the grounds that “O'Dwyer is not a US citizen, he's lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US”.

Other US extraditions, such as those of alleged computer hacker Gary McKinnon, have led to calls for reform of the US/UK extradition treaty, which campaigners say is biased against UK interests.

The government had promised to revise the extradition treaty in respect of McKinnon's plight. A Computer Weekly investigation found last year that while the Crown Prosecution Service must assess whether there is a public interest in bringing charges against someone in the UK, it has no such power over extradition requests made by foreign prosecutors.

McKinnon, an Asperger Syndrome sufferer, is still fighting extradition to the US to face charges of hacking into US military computers in 2002. The extradition order has been stalled by a disagreement over the medical evidence that suggested he was psychologically so frail it would be inhumane to allow foreign police to take him.

But this week the UK High Court called an end to the deadlock, giving McKinnon two weeks to decide whether to submit to a medical examination by a psychologist under the direction of home secretary Theresa May.


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