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Half A Million Americans Support McKinnon

September 2, 2009

A popular U.S. civil liberties group last night dramatically backed the case for computer hacker to face justice in the UK.

In a significant breakthrough for the Daily Mail’s campaign of behalf of the 43-year-old Asperger’s sufferer, the American Civil Liberties Union described his plight as ‘tragic’.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary , the group – which has more than half a million members – said Mr McKinnon was facing removal to the U.S. under an Extradition Act which is ‘lopsided’ and ‘unfair’ to Britain.

Vulnerable Gary McKinnon with his mother JanisVulnerable Gary McKinnon with his mother Janis. The American Civil Liberties Union described his plight as ‘tragic’

The ACLU wants him to face prosecution for hacking into 97 NASA and computers – offences committed while he was searching for proof of the existence of alien life – in the UK in the ‘interests of justice’. This process would automatically halt extradition.

The intervention came as the Tory justice spokesman attacked the ‘crude and clumsy’ Extradition Act, and demanded ministers ensure ‘ justice is done’.

The developments are a huge boost to Mr McKinnon, who experts have warned could commit suicide if his extradition to the U.S. is not halted by Home Secretary .

Supporters pointed out that even huge numbers of Americans did not want the hacker to be punished in the U.S. for crimes which were committed on British soil, from the bedroom of his North flat.

Supporters outside the U.S. Embassy in London throw paper planes to support GarySupporters outside the U.S. Embassy in London throw paper planes to support Gary

In the letter, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told Mr Miliband the ‘unfair lopsided aspect’ of the treaty meant that while Americans could only be extradited to the UK if ‘probable cause’ had been established, there was no equivalent provision for Britons facing extradition to the U.S.

The letter was released as UK civil rights group Liberty delivered a hamper to new U.S. ambassador Louis Susman containing letters from the ACLU and Liberty, as well as ‘Don’t let Gary go’ paper planes.

Last night Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: ‘The intervention of Liberty’s sister, the American Civil Liberties Union, proves that Britain’s Extradition Act is an international embarrassment.

‘Vulnerable people like Gary McKinnon can be bundled off to other countries when they ought to be dealt with at home.

‘If Parliament doesn’t amend Britain’s rotten Extradition Act to put discretion and common sense back into the system, other vulnerable sons and daughters are bound to suffer.’

QC, the Tory justice spokesman, said: ‘The Gary McKinnon case throws into sharp relief the crude and clumsy extradition procedures Britain now has in place.

‘The Extradition Act was introduced after 9/11, so that we could fast-track terrorist suspects to face trial abroad. The intention was reasonable. But it was never intended to operate in cases like this, diluting the safeguards protecting such a vulnerable man – and a British citizen at that.

‘Ministers must make every effort to see justice done for Gary McKinnon.’

Last month, two High Court judges ruled that they could not stop the Government from sending Mr McKinnon to the U.S. But they said that if he is extradited ‘his mental health will suffer and there are risks of worse, including suicide’.

Crucially, the judges also said the hacker could be prosecuted in London.

Mr Johnson insists he does not have the power to halt the extradition.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Government is satisfied that our extradition relations with the U.S. are balanced, fair and working well.’

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