Gary McKinnon could serve time in UK jail

Gary McKinnon's case has become a political hot potato in recent weeks
Gary McKinnon's case has become a political hot potato in recent weeks

Following the recent loss of British hacker Gary McKinnon's appeal against extradition to the US, it still looks like he might serve a prison sentence in the UK if found guilty.

McKinnon is accused of breaking into US military and NASA computers in 2001, claiming to be looking for classified information on UFOs held by the US Government.

Harriet Harman, Labour's Deputy Leader, told BBC's Sunday AM: "If the Americans have made out in court a case that this is an allegation of an offence of sufficient seriousness that they want him to stand trial in America, I don't think it should be for the British Government or any British politician to say we are going to second-guess the criminal justice system."

She added: "If he is found guilty, then obviously straight away we will seek for him to serve any prison sentence – if he is sentenced to prison – back in this country."

Harman added that that the Government had been assured by American authorities that McKinnon's health needs will be attended to should the extradition go ahead. McKinnon suffers from Asperger's syndrome.

Political hot potato

McKinnon's extradition has become a major political 'hot potato' in recent weeks, with Home Secretary Alan Johnson saying that it would be illegal for a government minister to now stop his extradition to the US.

Meanwhile, former Cabinet minister Peter Hain told the Daily Mail that he had considerable sympathy for the hacker, noting that: "After all he was sitting in his bedroom by his computer, as a kind of computer geek zapping the American defence system."

He added: "I have got a lot of sympathy for Gary McKinnon and his mum, who is a very brave woman fighting for his rights. He has got Asperger's syndrome which does tend to produce the kind of behaviour that is very compulsive."

Somewhat surprisingly, the Home Secretary Alan Johnson noted that McKinnon's "serious crimes" were allegedly carried out "shortly after the attacks of 9/11 which killed nearly 3,000 US citizens".

Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon's mother, hit back saying she was "very disappointed because not only is he (Mr Johnson) trying not to stand up for Gary's rights, he actually is trying to incriminate him by talking about 9/11 and all the people that died and then mentioning Gary's name.

"I don't expect him to actually be doing America's job, I expect him to be standing up for British citizens."

More than 40 MPs have issued a direct plea to Barack Obama urging him to immediately stop the "shameful" extradition.

Adam Hartley