US campaigners back McKinnon extradition fight


The campaign to prevent the extradition of a disabled man to the US has received a boost with support from America’s leading civil liberties organisation.

In a letter sent to David Miliband, the foreign secretary, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expresses its concern about the proposed extradition of Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome.

In the letter, ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, also states his organisation’s continuing concerns about the extradition treaty between the UK and the US.

Romero says McKinnon’s case “highlights the need to ensure that an individual’s case is properly judicially reviewed and the courts have the power to bar extradition if the interests of justice require it”.

The letter came as Liberty, ACLU’s UK sister organisation, staged a protest about the proposed extradition outside the American Embassy in London, and presented the new US ambassador with a hamper to welcome him to his new role.

The hamper contained a letter from Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, the ACLU letter, “don’t let Gary go” paper planes from the protest, copies of the Magna Carta and the Human Rights Act, and regional produce.

Chakrabarti said the ACLU intervention proved that Britain’s Extradition Act was “an international embarrassment” and needed to be changed to “put discretion and common sense back into the system”.

She said the act meant that “vulnerable people like Gary McKinnon can be bundled off to other countries when they ought to be dealt with at home”.

The latest moves followed the failure in early August of the two latest legal bids to prevent McKinnon’s extradition.

He faces a trial for allegedly hacking into US defense department computer systems, and a possible sentence of 60 years in prison if convicted in the US.

But the high court rejected two applications for judicial reviews, one arguing that McKinnon should be prosecuted in the UK, and the other that the extradition would breach his human rights due to its probable effect on his mental health.

1 September 2009