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Britain defies US over 'biggest military computer hack of all time'

Alan Travis and Owen Bowcott (via SMH) | Oct. 17, 2012
The mother of a British hacker thanks 'brave' Home Secretary for withdrawing extradition order on human rights grounds.

The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, yesterday defied American authorities by halting the extradition of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, a decision criticised by the US State Department but welcomed with delight by campaigners and politicians across parties in the UK.

In a dramatic House of Commons statement, May told MPs she had taken the quasi-judicial decision on human rights grounds because of medical reports warning that McKinnon, 46, who has Asperger syndrome and suffers from depressive illness, could kill himself if sent to stand trial in the US.

The irony that May's most popular decision as Home Secretary was taken because of the Human Rights Act, which she has pledged to scrap, was not lost on her critics. But in a promised overhaul of the extradition laws that accompanied the decision, May indicated that future home secretaries would be stripped of the very power that she had used to save the computer hacker.

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May arrives for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street in central London October 16, 2012.     REUTERS/Neil Hall (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS)

British Home Secretary Theresa May. Photo: NEIL HALL

McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, said May had been "incredibly brave" to "stand up" to the Americans. She said she was overwhelmed after the "emotional roller-coaster" the family had been through in the past 10 years.

McKinnon could not speak when he first heard the decision but then cried and hugged his mother.

"He felt like he was a dead person," Sharp said. "He had no job, he didn't go on holiday ... he felt worthless ... Thank you, Theresa May, from the bottom of my heart - I always knew you had the strength and courage to do the right thing."

Computer expert Gary McKinnon poses after arriving at the High Court in London in this January 20, 2009 file photograph. McKinnon, a British computer hacker accused by the United States of causing more than $700,000 damage to U.S. military systems will not be extradited because of the high risk he could kill himself, Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said on October 16, 2012.  REUTERS/Andrew Winning/files    (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)

Gary McKinnon will not be extradited because he is suicide risk, says May. Photo: ANDREW WINNING

McKinnon's MP, David Burrowes, who had threatened to resign from the government if the extradition went ahead, said May had saved McKinnon's life: "Today is a victory for compassion and the keeping of pre-election promises."


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