Halting the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States isn't within the power of Britain's government leaders, Nick Clegg has suggested.
Speaking about the controversial proceedings for the first time since becoming deputy prime minister, Clegg dropped a bombshell on McKinnon supporters arguing the forced transfer would violate his human rights. His remarks, made on live radio, appear to be at odds with the positions he staked out prior to this month's elections.
"What I haven't got the power to do, neither has the home secretary, neither has even the prime minister, is to completely reverse and undo certain legal aspects of this," Clegg told Radio Five Live. "That of course you wouldn't want politicians to do. That's what we are looking at at the moment. It's legally very complex."
Less than a year ago, however, Clegg argued that the home secretary had the authority to see that the NASA hacker was tried on UK soil.
"It's the basic duty of a government to protects its citizens, he told the Daily Mail in July. "It's completely within [then-Home Secretary Alan Johnson's] power to enact amendments ... which would allow Gary McKinnon to be tried over here."
Over the past few weeks, McKinnon supporters have voiced optimism that new Home Secretary Theresa May would intervene and prevent McKinnon's extradition, which has been pending for five years. That hope was largely based on the view that the Conservative Liberal government that just took power would take a firm stance against any extradition.
Last week, a planned judicial review of the case was adjourned so that May could review medical evidence that McKinnon is too mentally vulnerable to handle extradition. He has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism.
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