Government 'powerless' to stop McKinnon extradition

Home secretary Alan Johnson is powerless to stop the extradition of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, the High Court heard today.

And the...

Home secretary Alan Johnson is powerless to stop the extradition of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, the High Court heard today.

And the government could see no reason to stop the extradition even if it was able to do so, said Hugo Keith QC, acting for the home secretary .

The court received medical evidence from two of the world's leading autism experts that McKinnon is suffering from Asperger's syndrome.

McKinnon's extradition would exacerbate his condition, leading to a serious deterioration of his mental health, and even psychosis or suicide, according to the experts.

But the home secretary could only intervene on health grounds if McKinnon faced more tragic consequences than those predicted by medical experts in his case, the court heard.

"To engage the [European Human Rights] convention, the suffering must be great," said Keith.

The Human Rights Act might oblige the home secretary to stop the extradition if the alternative might subject McKinnon to inhuman suffering, the court heard.

Keith questioned the veracity of the medical evidence. He sighted numerous cases when people had suffered from depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoia, and suicical tendencies had been extradited despite their claims in court that removal from their home country would breach their human rights.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, acting for McKinnon, told the court that the case was different to those cited by the home secretary.

There was a real possibility of prosecuting McKinnon in the UK, and so avoiding the health risks of an extradition entirely.

McKinnon had been investigated and arrested in the UK, said Fitzgerald, for offences under the UK Computer Misuse Act in 2002.

McKinnon pleaded guilty to these offences. The US subsequently requested his extradition.

But Keith said the home secretary had an obligation to honour the US request for McKinnon's extradition.

Lord Justice Stanley Burton, and Mr Justice Wilkie have reserved judgement.

The court said it will set a date to hear a further judicial review of the director of public prosecutions' decision in February not to prosecute McKinnon in the UK.

McKinnon has gathered support from celebrities, including Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, in his campaign to avoid extradition.

Background to the case and interviews with Gary McKinnon >>.

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