British Asperger man can be extradited to US over hacking charges
An autistic man accused of hacking into US government computers can be extradited to the US from Britain to stand trial, a judge has ruled.
Lauri Love, who has Asperger syndrome, is alleged to have stolen huge amounts of data from US agencies including the Federal Reserve, the US Army, the Department of Defence, Nasa and the FBI, in a spate of online attacks in 2012 and 2013.
US authorities have been fighting for the 31-year-old, who lives with his parents near Newmarket in Suffolk, to face trial over charges of cyber-hacking, which his lawyers say could mean a sentence of up to 99 years in prison if he is found guilty.
There were gasps as Mr Love, wearing a purple sash around his belt, was told by District Judge Nina Tempia that he can be extradited, during a hearing at Westminster Magistrate's Court in London.
"I'm going to extradite Mr Love, but what I mean by that is, I'm going to send his case to the Secretary of State," Judge Tempia said.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd will have until November 15 to decide whether to extradite Mr Love, who could face the possibility of three separate trials in different jurisdictions.
Ahead of Friday's hearing Mr Love, who also suffers from depression and severe eczema, said a jail term in the US could cause his health to deteriorate and would lead to a mental breakdown or suicide.
Judge Tempia said Mr Love's rights under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to a private and family life - were "clearly engaged".
But she said: "In balancing the factors for and against extradition I am satisfied that the very strong counter-balancing factors required to find extradition would be disproportionate, are not found in this case."
She said Mr Love faced "extremely serious charges for offences of computer hacking".
It is alleged that between October 2012 and October 2013, Mr Love placed hidden "shells" or "backdoors" within the networks he compromised, allowing them to return and steal confidential data.
He is accused of causing "millions of dollars" worth of damage.
Judge Tempia acknowledged Mr Love's physical and mental health issues, but said she was "satisfied" his needs would be met by US authorities.
She added: "I am satisfied Mr Love's extradition would be compatible with his convention rights, and I send this case to the Secretary of State for her decision as to whether or not Mr Love should be extradited."
Following the hearing, the computer activist embraced friends and family, who appeared shocked and angry by the decision.
"If you have come for justice then you have missed it," Mr Love told a crowd of press in the courtroom .
Asked about his reaction to the ruling, Mr Love said: "It is probably a psychological defence mechanism, I will defer processing it until I am in a safe environment and I know I won't end up being acutely depressed and being useless to the world.
"I feel the disappointment and frustration just by the indication of people in the gallery."
If Mrs Rudd orders extradition, Mr Love will be able to seek permission to appeal both the district judge's and the Home Secretary's decision from the High Court.
Mr Love's solicitor, Karen Todner, said they would continue to fight against his extradition to the US.
The case was considered to be the first substantive test of the "forum bar", which was introduced in October 2013 by former home secretary Theresa May, allowing courts to block extradition if it is in the interests of justice to have a person tried in Britain.
But Judge Tempia ruled the case should be tried in the United States, where victims were said to have been targeted by Mr Love.
"It appears he targeted the United States departments and companies as part of his 'hactivisim' and political activity," she said.
Outside Westminster Magistrate's Court, supporters blocked the road, bringing traffic to a standstill as the y chanted "no love for the US gov".
The Rev Alexander Love, Mr Love's father, said he was "obviously very upset" with the decision.
He said: "It is my belief that it is not fair or just that a boy who has mental health issues can be taken away from his family, who are his support network, merely to satisfy the desire of the Americans, to exact what I feel is vengeance on him."