Supporters of Gary McKinnon protest outside Britain's Home Office|
LONDON, UK: Supporters of Gary McKinnon held a protest outside Britain's Home Office on December 15 to pressurise the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon - the British computer expert with Asperger's syndrome - to America, where he faces trial for hacking into Pentagon and Nasa computers.
Around 50 supporters - including McKinnon’s mother, Janis Sharp, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Conservative shadow justice minister David Burrowes and former Labour minister Kate Hoey - gathered in a show of support for McKinnon.
The group, who were penned in by police barriers, waved placards and shouted slogans such as “No Way To The USA."
A small number of them were later expected to go to Buckingham Palace to hand in flowers and a letter to the Queen, urging her to intervene.
McKinnon is wanted to face computer hacking charges in the United States, using what critics call an "unfair" extradition treaty which the Conservatives have pledged to amend if they win power at the next general election.
Alan Johnson has been criticised for ignoring fresh medical evidence about McKinnon. That decision was challenged in the High Court last week.
Clegg told The Daily Telegraph: “This treaty is wrong and Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the USA must be stopped. The Government can change this. We say to them: ‘You can do this if you have the courage of your convictions to do the right thing’.”
Clegg said he had seen legal advice which suggested there was a loophole to allow Johnson to intervene and prevent McKinnon’s extradition.
Psychiatrists have given warning that McKinnon would kill himself rather than be extradited but Johnson ignored their evidence, insisting he had no power to intervene. McKinnon, 43, allegedly hacked into Nasa and Pentagon computers and faces up to 60 years in a US prison. He said he was seeking evidence of Unidentified Flying Objects.
Andrew McKinlay, a Labour member of the foreign affairs select committee, blamed the Government for agreeing to a “daft and crude treaty” in 2002, which had been intended to target terrorists but was being used for Britons accused of white collar crimes.
Kate Hoey, a former sports minister, added: “I have supported this campaign since it began. The more I hear about it, the more ridiculous it is. Gary McKinnon should be tried here. The public want Gary to be tried here.”
Janet Sharpe asked why it was that Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, could “stand up” for the jailed killer, Amanda Knox, when Johnson was happy to stand by while her son was extradited.
She added: “Gary is terrified. He does not talk for days. How can any person live with this pressure for eight years?”
David Burrowes, the shadow justice minister and Mckinon’s local MP, added: “We have to got to try we can to make sure that the Home Secretary knows the strength of feeling. The case for Gary increases each day.”
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Secretary has no general discretion to halt extradition proceedings — the sole issue was whether the latest representations demonstrated that to extradite would breach human rights. It is now for the court to decide whether to grant permission for a further judicial review. As the matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
(Source: The Daily Telegraph, December 15, 2009)