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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
McKinnon supporters to 'fight on'
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Gary McKinnon and Karen Todner outside court, Getty
Mr McKinnon is planning to appeal against the extradition call
Supporters of Gary McKinnon have vowed to continue fighting to stop the hacker being extradited to the US.

In a hearing on Wednesday a judge recommended he be extradited where he will face trial for breaking into government networks.

Friends and supporters of Mr McKinnon fear that he will not get a fair trial if he does end up in America.

The final decision on whether he will be extradited will be made by the home secretary.

Appeal planned

A friend of Mr McKinnon who runs the "Free Gary" blog publicising the case said the decision by the judge was not "proper justice".

He added that the vast majority of people visiting the blog to comment on the case thought Mr McKinnon had been treated harshly and was facing punishment that did not fit his crimes.

If the harshest sentence is served on Mr McKinnon he could face up to 70 years in jail.

Dr K, another hacker watching the case, told the BBC News website: "We have to increase the campaign to ensure that Gary McKinnon is tried in the UK - for that reason the home secretary's decision is crucial."

Mr McKinnon has been charged with breaking in to a series of US military and government computer networks between February 2001 and March 2002.

The US alleges that during his hacking spree he caused $700,000 (375,235) of damage. One network he damaged took more than a month to repair, says the US.

"If he really wanted to damage the US military he had ample opportunity to do that," said the editor of the Free Gary blog, pointing out that Mr McKinnon had access to the networks for a long time before he was caught.

However, said the blog co-ordinator, none of this evidence had been presented to a British court to scrutinise. Instead UK courts considering Mr McKinnon's case have been debating the legality of the US extradition request.

"All the legal arguments have been about whether the request is in the proper form," he said.

Extradition issue

A decision was due in February 2006 but was delayed while the courts considered assurances from the US that Mr McKinnon will not be tried by a military tribunal, will be eligible for parole and will not have to serve his sentence at Guantanamo Bay.

District Judge Nicholas Evans, who ruled in the case, said he had received assurances that Mr McKinnon would be tried in a federal court in Virginia.

Receiving this guarantee meant, Judge Evans said, that "any real - as opposed to fanciful - risk" of Mr McKinnon being sent to Guantanamo had receded.

Home Secretary John Reid now has three months to decide whether to approve the extradition request.

Two other related cases also involve extradition and the decisions in these could be a strong indicator of how the request to extradite Mr McKinnon will be handled.

Karen Todner, Mr McKinnon's solicitor, said: "We're proposing to appeal this to the Secretary of State, and if we're still refused we will then appeal to the High Court for a decision to allow Gary to be tried here as a British citizen.

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