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UK government disgraced by Gary McKinnon extradition saga

Opinion Decade-long limbo is punishment enough
Tue Jul 24 2012, 13:29

V3 reporter Dan WorthSO HERE WE ARE AGAIN, with yet another twist in the ridiculously long-running Gary McKinnon extradition saga.

This time it's around medical issues after McKinnon refused a medical assessment on the somewhat understandable ground that the man appointed by the ministry to assess his condition is not an expert in his condition.

The incident adds to the outrageous treatment McKinnon has suffered at the hands of the government and its unbelievably slow handling of the case, which has dragged on since 2002 - a full decade - since his activities first came to light.

McKinnon, who suffers from Aspergers' Syndrome, has already had six (yes, six) medical tests, with the last three all carried out by prominent medical experts working on his condition, who all proclaimed him a suicide risk if he was extradited.

The Home Office though, led by the impressively useless Theresa May, decided that another medical test was required, so it appointed someone with no direct expertise on the condition to assess McKinnon. Unsurprisingly, McKinnon's legal team refused the test as it wouldn't be a fair assessment.

"Asperger syndrome is a complex condition and it would be impossible for anyone without specialised training to fully understand its impact," explained Mark Lever, the chief executive of the National Autistic Society.

"If Gary is forced to undergo an assessment that doesn't take account of his needs and he is consequently extradited, it could have very serious and potentially tragic ramifications."

Judges also urged the government to appoint a recognised expert, but they do not have the authority to force it to do so, and it very much appears that the Home Office chose to ignore them to pursue what increasingly appears an agenda against McKinnon to see him sent to the US for trial and almost certain imprisonment.

"This situation has dragged on for over 10 years - and the stress of this in itself will undoubtedly have had a negative impact on Gary's mental health. The home secretary must urgently take the necessary steps to recognise Gary's needs," added Lever.

Leaving complex medical debates aside, though, the fact the case has lasted 10 years and no outcome has been reached is shameful, utterly shameful.

Yes, the legal system is complex, and yes, due process and the rule of law must be upheld. But the case should have been finished years ago.

gary-mckinnon-2At least then McKinnon, and his tirelessly campaigning mother Janis Sharp, could move on and know where they stand, rather than the limbo of the last 10 year of endless medical reassessments, empty phrases and meaningless promises.

Of course, the whole issue is based around the outrageous extradition situation with the US that sees the UK cast in the role of bullied playground child who'll do anything to appease his tormentors.

However, it's not that the UK won't refuse extraditions point blank.

For example, as The Independent reported in June, a request to extradite a man accused of sex crimes in the US was rejected. The man is married to a senior policy manager at the Ministry of Justice, The Independent also noted.

In 2012 - a shining year for the UK with the Olympics bringing the eyes of the world on the nation - it would be a wonderful thing if McKinnon's case could be concluded.

It should see him acquitted on the grounds that no punishment could be as bad as what he's endured already at the hands of his own government. µ


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