Gary McKinnon, the UFO-obsessed computer geek who hacked into the Pentagon networks, has received a massive setback in his fight against extradition to America.
Mr McKinnon, an unemployed 42-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, faces up to 70 years in an American prison as a terrorist under a controversial extradition treaty.
He had hoped to avoid extradition to the US by being tried in the UK – but was dealt a huge blow last week when the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would not bring charges against him.
The move opens the way for him to be extradited instead, under the 2003 Extradition Act.
Glasgow-born McKinnon was accused of breaking into Pentagon computers and raiding 98 networks used by the US army, navy and Nasa between February 2001 and March 2002.
He has always maintained he hacked in to find evidence of UFOs. He also told police that the US systems had been accessed by other hackers, many of Chinese origin.
Now, his last hope appears to rest with a judicial review of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s decision that, despite his Asperger’s syndrome, there is no medical objection to his extradition for trial.
His supporters include pop star Sting and wife Trudie Styler, who have written to Jacqui Smith backing his case.
Sting told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It’s a travesty of human rights that Gary McKinnon finds himself in this dreadful situation.
‘The US response in relation to the true nature of Gary’s crime is disproportionate in the extreme. Gary is even contemplating suicide because of his fear of incarceration as a terrorist in a US jail.
‘The British Government is prepared to hand over this vulnerable man without reviewing the evidence.’
Sting pointed out that Mr McKinnon faces extradition under an Extradition Act signed by Britain but not Washington – which means Britain does not have reciprocal rights.
Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, also backs Mr McKinnon. He said: ‘He should be tried in the UK and not treated as a terrorist but as a man with a social disability.’
McKinnon – who is also being supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson – is living in his home in Wood Green, North London, until the final decision is made.
His mother Janis Sharp, said: ‘I’m heartbroken at the lack of compassion shown towards my son.
‘Somebody, somewhere please wake up and realise the extradition of even one vulnerable person cannot be a price worth paying to save the US’s embarrassment.’