Home Secretary says McKinnon must face US trial

No grounds to prevent NASA hacker's extradition

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon looks set to face trial in the US after Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there were no grounds to prevent his extradition.

He appeared to have been thrown a lifeline last month when new medical evidence was submitted to Johnson regarded McKinnon's Asperger's Syndrome.

However, after considering the evidence, Johnson said yesterday that sending McKinnon to the US would not breach his human rights.

"Due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon's health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met," Johnson said.

In an interview with the BBC, McKinnon's lawyer said his legal team would not give up the fight to prevent McKinnon's extradition.

"We are certainly coming to the end of the road," said Karen Todner. "We're just hoping at some point someone sees sense and steps in. All the legal team do know is we cannot give up because in some ways it's like dealing with a death row case, and we genuinely believe that Gary's life is at stake here."

McKinnon's legal battle dates back to 2001, after he broke into US military computers, including those belonging to NASA, in a bid to prove the US government had knowledge of UFOs.

While he says his actions caused no damage, the US claims he stole 950 passwords, deleted files at a naval base in New Jersey and rendered the military computer networks used following September 11 useless. The US estimates the damage caused by McKinnon at $700,000 (£433,000).

In August 2008, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to allow McKinnon to be extradited to the US. In a bid to avoid extradition McKinnon told the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he would plead guilty if tried in the UK. However in February this year, the CPS refused to bring charges against McKinnon.

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