Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Gary McKinnon extradition decision defended by Johnson

Alan Johnson says blocking the extradition would be 'unlawful': From Democracy Live

The home secretary has defended his decision to allow the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon amid criticism from some MPs.

Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon, 43, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is accused of breaking into US military computers.

He says he was seeking UFOs, and is fighting a US trial on medical grounds.

Alan Johnson told the Commons the extradition would not breach human rights but accepted there were concerns over Mr McKinnon's health.

But he insisted the US authorities had provided assurances that his "needs will be met".

'Wrong reasons'

Mr Johnson said he had carefully considered fresh representations about the health of Mr McKinnon, but said information provided by his lawyers was "not materially different" from that placed before the High Court earlier this year.

The evidence did not demonstrate that "sending Mr McKinnon to the US would breach his human rights", he said.

I'm the only person who can make this decision and I have to make it on the basis of the facts and all the facts
Home Secretary Alan Johnson

Mr McKinnon, who now lives in Wood Green, north London, has admitted hacking into 97 US government computers, including those of Nasa and the Pentagon, during 2001 and 2002. He faces a potential 60 years in prison if convicted.

His MP, David Burrowes, pointed to concerns about his constituent's possible suicidal tendencies and accused Mr Johnson of being "spineless".

Meanwhile the chairman of the Home Affairs select Committee Keith Vaz said it was the "wrong decision for the wrong reasons".

MP Kate Hoey said the public would view the case as a government not standing up for a British citizen in a difficult situation, while Andrew MacKinlay MP described the extradition treaty as a "Blunkett blunder" and called for emergency legislation to change it.

'No real risk'

Mr Johnson said last Thursday that he would not seek to block the US request for Mr McKinnon's extradition.

Mr McKinnon's legal team were given seven days from then to put a case for a judicial review, and have warned that if they are not granted this he could be extradited by Christmas.

[Alan Johnson] can wrap it up in lots of different language - the reality is that he hadn't stood up for a UK citizen who's extremely vulnerable to the point where he is suicidal
Mr McKinnon's MP David Burrowes

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons: "I am currently considering a request from Mr McKinnon's lawyers for an extension of the seven-day time limit."

He added it was clear there was "no real risk" that, if convicted, Mr McKinnon would serve any of his sentence in a "supermax" US prison, which hold the highest-security prisoners.

After being accused of being "spineless" by Mr Burrowes, who is also the shadow justice minister, Mr Johnson said: "This is a difficult decision.

"I'm the only person who can make this decision and I have to make it on the basis of the facts and all the facts, and it is a quasi-judicial decision."

Mr Burrowes - who had tabled an emergency question on the case - later said: "He [Alan Johnson] can wrap it up in lots of different language.

"The reality is that he hadn't stood up for a UK citizen who's extremely vulnerable to the point where he is suicidal, and should - in the words of the psychiatrist - be physically contained because of the extent of his mental illness, aligned to his Asperger's Syndrome."

After last week's decision Mr McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp told the BBC her son had reacted "very badly".

"To force a peaceful, vulnerable, misguided UFO fanatic like Gary thousands of miles away from his much-needed support network is barbaric," she said.



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SEE ALSO
Tories challenge extradition law
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Profile: Gary McKinnon
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