The National Autistic Society (NAS) has petitioned Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protect Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon and other people afflicted with autism from being extradited.
NAS president Jane Asher, the television celebrity who appeared in 1955 classic alien invasion film The Quatermass Xperiment, launched the petition. She joins a gaggle of stars supporting Gary, who hacked into US military computers while searching for UFO secrets.
The campaign has called for people to sign an e-petition on the prime minister's website. It asks for people with autism to be protected from extradition.
Asher said she was "horrified" at the way Gary was being treated by the criminal justice system. People with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, might appear normal but are often "extremely vulnerable," she said.
Experts have warned that if Gary were extradited to face a long sentence in a US penitentiary his mental condition could be so aggravated that he might take his own life. People with Asperger Syndrome suffer from something like social claustrophobia. He faces up to 70 years in a high-security US federal prison.
A petition of 4,000 people failed in February to persuade the UK attorney general to prosecute Gary in the UK where he could face the ordeal of a trial and a likely prison sentence with the support of his family. The latest e-petition has less than 2,000 signatures.
Yet some big names have come out in support of Gary, including Terry Waite, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Pink Floyd Guitarist David Gilmour, artist and Scots national treasure Peter Howson, London Mayor Boris Johnson, elder statesman Tony Benn, and swinging sixties star Julie Christie. µ
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