LONDON – British hacker Gary McKinnon, an Asperger’s sufferer who broke into US military computers, will not be extradited to the United States following a ten-year legal fight, Britain said Tuesday.
“Mr McKinnon is accused of serious crimes, but there is also no doubt that he is seriously ill,” interior minister Theresa May told parliament.
May said extradition would breach 46-year-old McKinnon’s human rights as his psychiatrists believed there was a high risk that he might attempt suicide if he were sent to the United States.
“I have concluded that Mr McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights,” she said.
“I have therefore withdrawn the extradition order against Mr McKinnon.”
British prosecutors will now decide whether to pursue action against the hacker through the British courts, May added.
McKinnon was arrested in London in 2002 for breaking into dozens of Pentagon and NASA computers, leaving 300 machines at a naval air station immobilized just after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
He has never denied the hacking, claiming he was looking for classified US documents on UFOs. He could have faced up to 60 years in a US jail for the breaches, which the United States says caused $800,000 (615,000 euros) worth of damage.
The hacker, who has become a symbol of the campaign to revamp Britain’s extradition deal with the United States, lost appeals in Britain’s House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights during his decade-long fight.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism, in 2007, after an autism expert watched him in a television interview and contacted McKinnon’s lawyer.
McKinnon’s mother Janis Sharp, who has campaigned vigorously for her son to be spared extradition, expressed delight at the decision.
“Thank you Theresa May from the bottom of my heart. I always knew you had the strength and courage to do the right thing,” she said.