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Rudd gives go-ahead to extradite autistic man to US on hacking charges

Published 14/11/2016

Lauri Love is accused of computer hacking
Lauri Love is accused of computer hacking

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has authorised the extradition of Lauri Love to the US, where he is accused of hacking into government computers, the Home Office said.

Mr 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.

Responding to the announcement, Mr Love's father , the Rev Alexander Love, told the Press Association : "It was going to happen - it was inevitable - but it's still painful. I cannot begin to express how much sorrow it causes me."

He added: "All we are asking for is British justice for a British citizen."

During a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court on September 16, District Judge Nina Tempia ruled that Mr Love could be extradited.

Mrs Rudd had two months to consider four legal matters - including if there was a risk of the death penalty and extradition arrangements between the US and UK - before deciding whether to block or order extradition.

A Home Office spokesman said: "On Monday 14 November, the Secretary of State, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for Lauri Love's extradition to the United States.

"Mr Love has been charged with various computer hacking offences which included targeting US military and federal government agencies."

Mr Love, who could face the possibility of three separate trials in different jurisdictions, has 14 days to apply for permission to appeal against the decision.

It is alleged that between October 2012 and October 2013 Mr Love caused "millions of dollars" worth of damage by placing hidden "backdoors" within the networks he compromised, allowing them to return and steal confidential data.

Mr Love, who also suffers from depression and eczema, has said that a jail term in the US could cause his health to deteriorate and would lead to a mental breakdown or suicide.

Barry Sheerman, one of the more than 100 MPs who have signed a letter calling on US President Barack Obama to block Mr Love's extradition, said he was "deeply disappointed" at the decision.

The Labour MP for Huddersfield said: "We are still keeping up the pressure. We are getting more and more MPs to sign the letter to President Obama."

He added: "The pressure continues, we won't give up."

Conservative MP David Burrowes, who also led the fight to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon, said the Home Secretary had little power to block the extradition and that he expected Mr Love to appeal against the decision.

The MP for Enfield Southgate said : "We hope that the High Court realises it would be disproportionate to extradite Mr Love and risk his life.

"Failing that we have to rely on Donald Trump to step in and be our knight in shining armour.

"President Obama is still going to be president until January and we still hope that in one of his final acts he could stop the extradition.

"Donald Trump is trying to show his fair mindedness, care and concern, and there is no better way to show that than to stop Lauri Love's extradition."

Tor Ekeland, Mr Love's US lawyer and an expert in hacking cases, said Mrs Rudd was "boxed in" by UK legislation and would have found it "very hard" to justify blocking the extradition.

He told Iain Dale on LBC: "We were expecting this because under the law in the UK now this is essentially a rubber stamp for the Home Secretary - there's not much latitude which she has.

"But he does have an appeal to the High Courts. We have one more shot at it in the UK."

Mr Ekeland added that he feared that Mr Love would face a "way harsher environment" in the US following Mr Trump's election than he would have under the Obama administration.

Mr Love has yet to comment but - in an apparent nod to the announcement - posted a picture of a beer on his Twitter page alongside the caption: "This one is dedicated to Her Majesty's Principal (if not Principled) Secretary of State for the Home Department."

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