Tearful mother fears for 'suicidal' hacker's life

Gary McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp (r) with Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti
Gary McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp (r) with Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti

By Alex Stevenson and Jon Ashford

The mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon has revealed to politics.co.uk how she fears for her son's life as he faces extradition to the US.

Mr McKinnon, the UFO enthusiast who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, will find out next week whether he will be allowed to appeal his case to the supreme court.

At a protest outside the American embassy in central London yesterday his mother revealed the extent to which he is struggling - and broke down as she appealed to Barack Obama to prevent the extradition.


Janis Sharp breaks down as she pleads to Barack Obama:

"It's ruining his mental health," Janis Sharp said.

"He took betablockers and said for the first time ever he had woken up without chest pains and he felt relaxed for the first time ever. But he's stopped taking those because he's worried about the side-effects."

The home secretary and director of public prosecutions have refused requests to try him in the UK and he now faces extradition for trial in the US after hacking into Nasa and Pentagon computers.

Ms Sharp believes the prospect has put her suicidal son's life in danger and repeated her hopes that the US president might intervene in the case.

"Please Obama," she said. "Don't let the first person ever extradited for computer misuse to be a guy with Asperger's who was hunting for UFOs - a really good gentle guy who's never hurt anyone and who would never hurt anyone. Please stop this extradition."

Mr McKinnon's partner, Lucy Clarke, also attended the Liberty protest. She confirmed his mother's impressions of his mental health, saying: "He's in a very dark place at the moment, very very low."

Gary McKinnon's partner Lucy Clarke on the hacker's mental state:

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Liberty have campaigned against the McKinnon case. A letter to foreign secretary David Miliband from ACLU's executive director Anthony Romero pointed out the inequitable nature of the existing bilateral extradition treaty.

While US citizens require the establishment of probable cause before extradition can be granted, British residents like Mr McKinnon can be subject to extradition without these requirements.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti told politics.co.uk: "This is about a big mistake of our government rather than the US government. All we want is the same for people in Britain.

"People forget that even if you could get a fair trial in another country, if you believe in the presumption of innocence you've got to understand that being taken from your home and your familiy and your lawyers and your friends and supporters, taken off to the other side of the world where you will be a fugitive offender, locked up pending trial - that's a punishment in itself."

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti on what the McKinnon case means for civil liberties in Britain

The Home Office offered scant support to the McKinnon campaign.

"The government is satisfied that our extradition relations with the US are balanced, fair and working well," a Home Office spokesperson said.

"The onus placed on each country is broadly comparable and the requirements are as close as possible given the differences between our respective legal systems. No extradition request made to US since the Treaty came into force has been refused by the United States."

Mr McKinnon will hear whether his appeal can be heard in the UK's supreme court on September 3rd.

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