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Computer hacker Gary McKinnon should not have to face prison term

The fact that the UK government is even considering the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United Sates is appalling and indicative of Gordon Brown’s insensitive approach to the concept of a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

The defence of human liberty can affect us all. The Extradition Act of 2003 was passed into law to fight the ‘war on terror’ post 9/11. But Gary McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism), can hardly be described as a terrorist.

The crime for which he was arrested in the UK was that of hacking, from his London home, into the computers of the Pentagon and NASA.

If tried in the USA, he could face a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

If there is to be any trial in this case, it should be held not in the USA but in the UK. The ill-drafted Extradition Act of 2003 does not provide adequate protection of the rights of the UK citizen. Relying upon this iniquitous Act in this case would be to use ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’!

The US administration should be grateful to Mr McKinnon for exposing security weaknesses and, instead of pillorying him, should rather enlist his services in the battle against cyber-terrorism.

Otherwise he should be given a period of community service to teach young and old computer users to operate them properly, lawfully and for benefit.

Wiser counsels should prevail over the government’s present strategy.

Neil C Oliver LLB


Belfast Telegraph