Leaked documents have revealed that Gordon Brown proposed a legal deal to a senior US diplomat that could have prevented a disabled computer hacker from being extradited to America.
The document, published by the WikiLeaks website, suggests that Brown, when still prime minister last year, told the US ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman, of the “deep public concern” that Gary McKinnon would try to commit suicide if imprisoned in the US.
If extradited, McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, faces a trial for allegedly hacking into US defense department computer systems, and a possible prison sentence of 60 years if convicted.
Brown apparently suggested a deal in which McKinnon could plead guilty, make a “statement of contrition”, but serve any prison sentence in the UK.
Janis Sharp, McKinnon’s mother, told the Commons home affairs committee this week that she was “very surprised” and “very pleased” to hear that Brown had lobbied the US ambassador on her son’s behalf.
But she said she believed that America wanted to extradite and imprison her son “as an example”.
She added: “I don’t want to see Gary dying in a foreign prison. His mental health has deteriorated so much.
“Gary has been in this terror for many, many years. If he can be tried in the UK…he should be tried in the UK.”
And she said she hoped that MPs such as senior Conservatives David Cameron and Dominic Grieve and senior Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne would keep their pre-election promises to try her son in the UK.
She said: “I am sure that these people would not use a vulnerable man just in order to be re-elected because that would be horrendous, so I am sure that they will keep their word and they will have the strength to say to America: ‘No.’”
David Blunkett MP, who signed the extradition treaty with the US when he was a Labour home secretary, had suggested earlier to the committee that McKinnon should be allowed to give his evidence to a US court via video-link from the UK.
Home secretary Theresa May has been considering McKinnon’s case since May.
Last year, the Labour home secretary Alan Johnson decided the extradition could go ahead after considering new evidence relating to McKinnon’s mental health, which suggested he was highly likely to try to kill himself if extradited.
Until May intervened, the high court was set to consider whether Johnson should have halted the extradition in the light of the new evidence.
Cameron also discussed the case with the US president, Barack Obama, at the White House in July.
1 December 2010