Obama and Cameron discuss disabled hacker


The prime minister and the US president, Barack Obama, have discussed the case of disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who faces the threat of extradition to the United States.

The two leaders discussed McKinnon’s case during their meeting at the White House this week, and in a subsequent televised press conference.

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.

David Cameron said he hoped a “way through” could be found in the case but that he understood McKinnon was accused of “a very important and significant crime”.

Obama said he hoped the matter could be “resolved in a way that underscores the seriousness of the issue but also underscores the fact that we work together and we can find an appropriate solution”.

Cameron later told the BBC that discussions between the UK and the US ambassador about the case had started under the Labour government and were continuing.

He appeared to suggest that these discussions were focused on allowing McKinnon to serve “some” of any prison sentence handed to him by a US court in a British prison. But this would still mean extraditing him to the US to stand trial.

Cameron said discussions had been taking place “to see if there isn’t some way of dealing with this case where perhaps the sentence is given in America but some of the – if there is a prison sentence – is served in a British prison”.

Cameron and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, were among senior coalition figures who criticised the Labour government’s failure to stop McKinnon’s extradition when they were in opposition.

Home secretary Theresa May has asked for more time to consider McKinnon’s case, before the high court rules on whether the previous government was right to refuse to halt the extradition.

Last November, the then 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.

Johnson told MPs at the time that extraditing McKinnon would not breach his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The high court is due to consider whether Johnson should have halted the extradition in the light of the new evidence.

21 July 2010


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