Computer hacker Gary McKinnon outside the high court. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA
Campaigners for the computer hacker Gary McKinnon have called for support from the new coalition government in their latest bid to overturn a decision to allow him to be extradited to the US.
Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, previously ruled that McKinnon, 43, could be removed for trial in the US for hacking into US military computers. He faces up to 60 years in a high security prison if convicted in the US.
Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have in the past publicly criticised plans to extradite McKinnon. Last year, Cameron said any trial should take place in the UK. He said there was “a clear argument to be made that he should answer [any questions] in a British court.”
Lawyers for McKinnon yesterday took the opportunity of a change of government – and the new leaders’ previous support – to make an official approach to the new Conservative home secretary, Theresa May.
Three home secretaries, Jacqui Smith, Johnson, and now Theresa May a week into the job – have now had to consider the case.
McKinnon’s lawyer, Karen Todner, said she had asked May to intervene and prevent the extradition. “We hope the new Liberal-Conservative government will act upon their previous public statements that it would be unjust to extradite Mr McKinnon,” Todner said.
McKinnon admitted to hacking into 97 computers in the US defence department and Nasa from his flat in Wood Green, north London, and said he was looking for evidence of UFOs between 2001-2.
Despite a lengthy legal battle and a strong public support for The Free Gary campaign, McKinnon has so far failed in his seven year fight against extradition. His supporters argue that McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and was driven only by an obsession with UFOs. The US government argues that his hacking attempts were a deliberate effort to breach American defence systems.
McKinnon’s lawyers have also been granted permission for a judicial review – having failed to do so win one last year – into whether Johnson’s decision to allow extradition and trial in the US breaches McKinnon’s human rights.