McKinnon Wins Right To Challenge US Extradition

In a ruling made on Friday, Lord Justice Maurice Kay has agreed to allow lawyers of UK hacker, Gary McKinnon, to present their arguments at a hearing in March against their client's extradition to America.

During the hearing, McKinnon's Lawyers will have the chance to formally appeal the extradition, giving him a few more weeks of respite.

McKinnon acknowledged that he was "gobsmacked" after winning the right to challenge a request by US prosecutors to extradite him to the US where he would be judged for hacking Nasa and military computer networks.

Lawyers for McKinnon said that his health could deteriorate and that he is a risk suicide if the extradition is given the green light by UK authorities.

McKinnon was recently diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of Autism, which could have a significant impact on his mental abilities and decision making. Two common characteristics associated with Asperger Syndrome sufferers are "obsessive behaviour and deficiencies in Social Interaction".

But Lisa Jo Rudy, who edits the About.com Guide to Autism, criticises the decision to use Asperger Syndrome as an excuse, arguing that "Asperger syndrome is not a mental illness. It is, though, a mental difference. McKinnon certainly knew that his actions were illegal. It is reasonable to present a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome as an excuse for knowingly breaking the law?"

Two judges decided in a ruling that McKinnon case "merits substantive consideration" and permission was subsequently granted to seek judicial review. McKinnon, of Wood Green, North London, has admitted hacking the computers but he has vigorously denied any malicious intent in the process.

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Our Comments

The McKinnon case will have cost the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic several hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money to decide something arguably simple. Where should some who has committed a crime be judged, regardless of his health? McKinnon has already said that he committed a reprehensible act in a guilty plea he signed. It remains a mystery as to why US prosecutors don't let him spend his prison terms in UK. McKinnon is unlikely to be an extremely dangerous terrorist after all.

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