Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Plea to Obama on Briton extradition

Richard O'Dwyer faces extradition to the US

The mother of a British student accused of breaking American copyright laws has called on Barack Obama to halt "appallingly harsh" attempts to extradite her son as the US president faced a grilling over his plight.

Richard O'Dwyer, 23, allegedly earned thousands of pounds through the TVShack website he created, which enabled users to watch films and television shows for free.

His case topped a list of subjects that American voters put to their leader during an online question-and-answer session.

Mr O'Dwyer's mother, Julia, 55, welcomed the US interest in her son's case, saying: "It's tremendous that questions have reached Mr Obama because at least it will raise a bit of awareness over there. Now even Americans have woken up to the US administration's excessive use of the extradition laws between our countries.

"Given our Government won't protect its own citizens, it's up to Mr Obama to put a stop to the ridiculous and appallingly harsh attempts to extradite Richard, and others facing similarly unnecessary treatment."

During the web discussion, Mr Obama told listeners that he was not personally involved in Mr O'Dwyer's case but insisted the US administration wanted to ensure that intellectual property was protected "in a way that's consistent with internet freedom".

Mr O'Dwyer, a Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate, faces jail if convicted of the allegations. His lawyers say he would be the first British citizen to be extradited for such an offence and would effectively become a "guinea pig" for copyright law in the US.

Earlier this month, a court ruled that the student could be sent to the US to face trial. It came after his legal team told London's Westminster Magistrates' Court that the TVShack website did not store copyright material itself but merely pointed users to other sites, in the same way that Google and Yahoo operate.

Mrs O'Dwyer said the family had received massive support in the past months, particularly from the online community and from Janis Sharp, the mother of Asperger's sufferer Gary McKinnon who is wanted in the US to face trial for hacking into military computers.

Speaking from her home in Chesterfield, Mrs O'Dwyer said: "The British Government don't want to get involved. They had plenty to say about Gary McKinnon's case before they came to power but now they need to get it sorted. They have been reviewing the Extradition Act for over a year and they need to get an idea of what they are going to do."