McKinnon: Blunkett repents over UK-US extradition treaty

With the hindsight of the past seven years, former home secretary David Blunkett admitted to a parliamentary select committee he would examine "very carefully" the implications of the 2003 extradition treaty he signed with the US.

With the hindsight of the past seven years, former home secretary David Blunkett admitted to a parliamentary select committee he would examine "very carefully" the implications of the 2003 extradition treaty he signed with the US.

Blunkett has previously expressed his regrets over the treaty, which the US has used to demand the extradition of self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon. Blunkett earlier called for McKinnon to be repatriated to serve any penalty a US court imposed.

The Home Affairs committee, chaired by Keith Vaz, heard evidence on Tuesday on the perceived unfairness of the treaty, which requires UK officials to provide stronger evidence of wrong-doing than it does of US officials.

The US has accused McKinnon of hacking tens of thousands of US federal and military computers and causing some $800,000 in damage. If convicted McKinnon, who suffers from an autistic condition called Asperger's syndrome, faces up to 60 years in a US jail.

Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnonThe committee heard Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mother, say that 2011 would be the 10th anniversary of McKinnon's alleged crime.

However, the extradition call came in 2005, at least three years after McKinnon was first arrested and interviewed by UK police. She suggested "rogue prosecutors" were behind the extradition request, and that their purpose was to use McKinnon as an example of what happens to hackers in the US.

Sharp indicated she would prefer to see her son tried in a British court and said many legal professionals had told her this was possible under present laws.

Civil rights activist Shami Chakrabati told the committee that for an extradition to proceed, the treaty should provide for prima facie evidence of wrong-doing to be presented to a home court, for the alleged crime to be a crime in both jurisdictions, and for justice to be best served by trial in the foreign country.

Blunkett said in evidence that there should also be a time limit on extradition requests.

Home secretary Theresa May will give evidence to the committee on 14 December.

Vaz said prior to the meeting, "The issue of the UK's extradition arrangements, both with the US, the EU and other countries, remains prevalent following the government's announcement that a review is being conducted by Sir Scott Baker.

"The fact that a decision still has not been made on the case of Gary McKinnon, more than six months after the home secretary said the issue would be looked at, highlights the importance of this review."

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