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Conservatives challenge Alan Johnson over the extradition of Gary McKinnon

Picture 15 Yesterday Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, David Burrowes, successfully tabled an urgent question to the Home Secretary over his decision not to intervene to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon, his constituent, to the United States.

Mr Burrowes said that he wanted Alan Johnson to consider one particular aspect of the case:

"I want him to focus on the medical evidence, which he has considered and not disputed, and the limited human rights discretion that he accepts he has. Does the Home Secretary not accept that Professor Jeremy Turk’s report of 8 October raised new and material evidence, namely that Gary McKinnon “is now suffering from an exacerbation of his very serious Major Depressive Disorder… aggravated and complicated by anxiety and panic attacks” aligned to his having Asperger’s syndrome?

"Given that he now places Gary McKinnon at an “even higher risk of self-harm and suicide” than after his earlier report, and concludes that “suicide is now a real probability and will be an almost certain inevitability should he experience extradition”, and that there is a high probability that he “will require inpatient psychiatric containment”, surely he has established a real risk of human rights being breached should extradition proceed. Putting it more bluntly, how ill and vulnerable does Gary McKinnon need to be not to be extradited to the United States?

"The Home Secretary wants to rely on previous court judgments. Given that Lord Justice Stanley Burnton indicated that if Gary McKinnon were not extradited he could be prosecuted in this country, how can it be proportionate to allow the extradition of a UK citizen who is suicidal and sectionable? Is it not the case that far from being powerless to stop Gary McKinnon’s extradition, in the light of the medical evidence the Home Secretary has shown himself and his Government to be spineless?"

Shadow Home Affairs minister Damian Green also weighed in with a series of points from the front bench:

Picture 16 "First, Is it proportionate or a breach of human rights to extradite someone in the context of what has been alleged? The US prosecutors say that Mr. McKinnon was attempting to “influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion”. He allegedly hacked into US army computers and left messages attacking US foreign policy. Is that really intimidating or coercive to the US military? More to the point, does the Home Secretary seriously believe that that would be the action of a terrorist?

"Secondly, does Mr. McKinnon really need to be extradited to stand trial? As the Home Secretary will have seen, there are reports that the Crown Prosecution Service wanted to prosecute Mr. McKinnon in this country for computer misuse, but that those efforts were blocked. Is that true?

"Thirdly, is it not a breach of his human rights to send a man with Asperger’s and depression to face a possible 60-year sentence? The Home Secretary will have seen the opinion of one psychiatrist that that will amount to a death sentence. It is, of course, horribly ironic that it would be illegal to send someone to another country to face an explicit death sentence.

"Fourthly, will the Home Secretary not accept that the imbalance in the Extradition Act 2003 means that a British citizen facing extradition has fewer human rights than a US citizen would have if the position were reversed? Baroness Scotland, the Government’s Attorney-General, said in 2003: “when we make extradition requests to the United States we shall need to submit sufficient evidence to establish ‘probable cause’. That is a lower test than prima facie but a higher threshold than we ask of the United States”. Why does the Home Secretary disagree with his Attorney-General that the extradition treaty is unbalanced and unfair?

"Finally, does the Home Secretary not recognise that the Extradition Act 2003 was put in place to ensure that terrorists did not escape justice? It was never intended to deal with a case such as the one that we are discussing. Can he not see that his actions regarding Gary McKinnon have damaged this country’s reputation, damaged relations between Britain and our most important ally and, most importantly, damaged a very vulnerable and sick young man?"

Jonathan Isaby


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