Govt defeats McKinnon extradition vote

By Liz Stephens and Ian Dunt

A fight by the Tories to prevent the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the US was defeated today.

The Conservatives devoted today’s opposition day debate to the matter of Mr McKinnon, a UFO enthusiast suffering from Aspergers Syndrome who is due to be extradited to the US for trial after hacking into Nasa and Pentagon computers.

They recieved support from the Liberal Democrats, with 236 MPs supporting the motion.

But the government defeated it with 290 votes.

If convicted Mr McKinnon could face 60 years in a maximum security prison.

Doctors are worried that Mr McKinnon is “vulnerable” and may be a suicide risk if extradited.

Speaking during the debate, Conservative home affairs spokesman Chris Graylin called for an urgent review of the extraidition agreement with the United States.

“I believe that such a review is vital to maintain the integrity of our extradition system, to make changes to ensure that it is fair and just and to make sure that it enjoys public confidence,” he said.

“There is no doubt that such public confidence has been sorely lacking in the last few years.”

A nationwide campaign in support of Mr McKinnon has been set up backed by the Daily Mail.

Tory leader David Cameron said: “I am deeply saddened and worried about the case of Gary McKinnon. I am saddened because he is clearly a vulnerable young man with a recognised medical condition.

“I simply see no compassion in sending him away to serve a lengthy prison sentence, thousands of miles away from his home, his family and his friends.

“The Extradition Act was put in place to ensure terrorists didn’t escape justice. It was never intended to deal with a case like Gary’s.”

Mr McKinnon admitted hacking into 97 US computers from his North London home in 2001 and 2002. He was looking for evidence of extra-terrestrials.

Mr McKinnon’s supporters are trying to halt the extradition so the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can reconsider the case. They argue that, because the crimes were committed in the UK, Mr McKinnon should be tried in the UK.

The hacker’s mother, Janis Sharp said: “In 2004, when considering the extradition of Abu Hamza, the then home secretary said: ‘Had we evidence in the UK of a crime committed here then of course the police and the attorney general would have taken action.’

“Well, if that’s the approach for a convicted terrorist, why not for a gentle, misguided Asperger’s sufferer like Gary?”

The US government claims the incident was the “biggest military hack of all time” and cost more than $700,000 (£430,000) in repairs.