Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Clock ticking for hacker McKinnon

By Simon Hancock
BBC News

Gary McKinnon at the press conference in London today
42 year-old McKinnon at the press conference given by his legal team.

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon should know within four weeks whether his attempts to fight extradition to the US have any chance of success.

Mr McKinnon was joined by his supporters and advisers in London to repeat their call for a UK trial rather than extradition.

He admits hacking into US government computer systems in 2001 and 2002 in the search for information about UFOs, which he believed to have been suppressed by the US authorities.

The US treated his activities as cyber-terrorism. If he were to be extradited he faces a possible 70 years in a maximum security jail.

Inside the fires of hell are burning.
Gary McKinnon

His legal team has written to the Crown Prosecution Service to request he be tried in the UK instead. An answer is promised within four weeks.

Asperger's Syndrome

Mr McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. Sufferers often struggle to communicate with other people and can develop obsessive interests..

At a specially-called news conference, autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen said Mr McKinnon's crime "should be treated as the activity of somebody with a disability rather than a criminal activity".

It displayed the signs of Asperger's Syndrome, such as an obsession with finding out the truth, he said.

"It can bring a sort of tunnel vision so that in their pursuit of the truth they are blind to the potential social consequences for them or for other people," he said.

He also said for someone with Asperger's Syndrome, prison life would be intolerable and it could even deepen the condition.

Mr McKinnon's girlfriend of four years, Lucy Clarke, told the BBC he had been depressed and "he would be suicidal" if extradited.

'Typical bloke'

As the assembled lawyers and supporters - among them his MP David Burrowes - presented their arguments, Mr McKinnon calmly gazed into space, occasionally clarifying points he felt important.

"I'm doing that typical bloke thing and pretending it's not happening," he told the BBC afterwards.

"I'm on Beta blockers and very stressed. I'm cold and calm on the outside, but inside the fires of hell are burning," he said.

On 20 January, his legal team had been due to present an oral case for permission to apply for a judicial review on his extradition, partly on the basis the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome had not yet been made at the time his extradition was granted.

With the news the Crown Prosecution Service is to deliver a decision over a UK trial within four weeks, his lawyers will now go to the court on Friday to ask that their oral hearing be delayed until that outcome is known.



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SEE ALSO
Brown urged to keep hacker in UK
05 Dec 08 |  Technology
MPs want UK jail time for hacker
04 Nov 08 |  Technology
Profile: Gary McKinnon
30 Jul 08 |  Technology

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