McKinnon extradition decision delayed for new evaluation

July 9, 2012

The decision of whether to extradite accused NASA and U.S. military hacker Gary McKinnon is on hold while he decides whether to take a psychiatric exam to determine whether he is fit to stand trial in America, according to reports.

The High Court in the U.K. is giving McKinnon two weeks to make his choice before Home Secretary Theresa May makes a ruling on whether the 46-year-old should stand trial in his home country or across the pond, according to the BBC.

McKinnon suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. His lawyers have argued that he is at risk of committing suicide if he is extradited, and this has been backed up by medical assessments. However, McKinnon is reluctant to be re-examined because he does not believe the psychiatrist appointed by May to conduct the exam is an expert in Asperger's, according to a report Friday in the Barnet and Whetstone Press.

McKinnon could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of charges that in 2001 he hacked into 97 computers operated by the U.S. government, including those of the Pentagon, Army, Air Force and NASA.

American authorities have said his actions resulted in a shutdown of the Army's Military District of Washington network, containing more than 2,000 computers and resulting in $700,000 in damage.

McKinnon has long maintained that he is simply a computer geek and only wanted to find evidence of alien life and UFOs. His lawyers said an extradition would lead to "disastrous consequences" for his health, including possible psychosis and suicide, according to reports. They have claimed McKinnon is in an “extremely fragile mental state.” 

Led by his mother, Janis Sharp, McKinnon has been fighting extradition since 2006, with many highs and lows along the way.

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