A timetable has finally been set for the next phase of NASA hacker Gary McKinnon's long-running fight against extradition to the US.
The UK government's Home Secretary Theresa May will decide by 16 October on whether McKinnon's diagnosis as an Asperger's Syndrome sufferer is sufficient to block his extradition, according to his lawyer Karen Todner. His solicitors Kaim Todner explained in a statement this morning that they will take McKinnon's battle back to the High Court if May hands the Glasgow-born sysadmin over to American prosecutors:
The Home Secretary will make an announcement on or before 16 October, 2012 regarding the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States of America. Should the decision from the Home Secretary not be in Mr McKinnon’s favour, the High Court has fixed the case for hearing on 28 and 29 November, 2012.
May decided to reexamine McKinnon's medical history in May 2010 following the election of Blighty's coalition government. Some Tories and Lib Dems, while in opposition, were sympathetic to McKinnon's plight, and argued that the US-UK extradition treaty was unfair.
McKinnon declined to undergo a Home Office medical test by Professor Thomas Fahy after the Scot's legal team argued that the mental health prof was not skilled in assessing Asperger's sufferers.
Experts in autism, including top boffin Dr Jan Vermeulen, warn there is a severe risk that McKinnon will commit suicide if faced with a US trial and imprisonment over computer hacking charges that date back to 2001.
McKinnon, who lives in north London, admitted infiltrating US military and NASA computers while hunting for evidence of UFO technology. The 46-year-old, who disputes US claims that he caused significant financial damage and general chaos as a result of his exploits, has consistently sought a trial in the UK since extradition proceedings began in 2005 – three years after he was first arrested by UK police.
Since then there have been numerous appeals (one of which went all the way to the House of Lords), judicial reviews, medical reviews and debates in Parliament over the case. Efforts to broker a diplomatic agreement have also proved fruitless, despite changes in government on both sides of the Atlantic. ®