Hacker Gary McKinnon's mother welcomes Obama comments


The mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon has welcomed comments by President Barack Obama about her son's possible extradition to the US.

Janis Sharp, who is fighting to keep her son in the UK, described the president's words as "very positive".

Mr Obama, who is on a state visit to the UK, said he would "respect" the British legal process.

Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, is accused of hacking US military computer systems.

The 45-year-old - who lives in north London - faces up to 60 years in jail for hacking into Pentagon and Nasa computers between February 2001 and March 2002. He does not deny hacking into the systems but insists he was seeking evidence of UFOs.

His case is currently before Home Secretary Theresa May, who has to make a final decision as to whether Mr McKinnon should be extradited.

'Widespread concern'

Speaking during a press conference in London, Mr Obama said: "We have proceeded through all the processes required under our extradition agreements. It's now in the hands of the British legal system.

"We have confidence in the British legal system coming to a just conclusion, and so we will await resolution and we will be respectful of that process."

The prime minister, referring to Mr McKinnon by his first name, said he understood the "widespread concern" about the way he would be treated if handed over to the US authorities.

"The case is in front of the home secretary who has to consider reports about Gary's health and his well-being and it is right that she does that in a proper and effectively quasi-judicial way," he said.

"I totally understand the anguish of his mother and family about this issue. We must follow the proper processes and make sure this case is dealt with in the proper way and I am sure that is the case."

There has been a long-running campaign for Mr McKinnon to be allowed to remain in the UK, and many politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have expressed concerns about the case.

'Farcical extradition'

Mr McKinnon's lawyer Karen Todner said she was "absolutely delighted" if the comments meant the US was relaxing its position.

"Bearing in mind we do have this special relationship, the fact Mr Obama has come out and said he would respect the English judicial system is wonderful," she said.

image captionGary McKinnon has been fighting extradition to the US for several years

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "If, as the president says, he will be 'respectful' of our legal process, then he should be happy for Gary to be dealt with here in the UK.

"If our government seeks to honour the words of both coalition partners in opposition, it will decide that Gary's condition warrants halting this farcical extradition immediately, so that justice and compassion can be dispensed at home."

It is not yet known when Mrs May will decide whether Mr McKinnon must be extradited.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Extradition can only be refused at this late stage in the process if the home secretary decides that extradition would breach Gary McKinnon's human rights.

"The home secretary aims to reach a decision as soon as is consistent with dealing fairly and properly with all matters raised by Mr McKinnon's legal team."

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