Rights court allows extradition of hacker to U.S.

Gary McKinnon, who committed "the biggest military computer hack of all time", speaks at an Information Security conference at Olympia in west London April 27, 2006. REUTERS/Toby Melville

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights gave the green light on Thursday for Britain to extradite a computer expert to the United States to face trial for hacking into military systems.

Gary McKinnon was arrested in 2002 after U.S. prosecutors charged him with illegally accessing computers at NASA, the Pentagon, the U.S. army and navy and causing $700,000 worth of damage.

If convicted, he could face up to 70 years in prison.

McKinnon lost an appeal against extradition in Britain’s highest court in July. He took his case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the conditions of his detention in the United States could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

He also asked the court to request that Britain put the extradition on hold while it examined the substance of his case. The court declined to make such a request and gave no reason, as is normal at this stage of the proceedings.

McKinnon told Reuters in 2006 he was just a computer enthusiast who wanted to find out whether aliens existed and became obsessed with trawling large military networks for proof.

But Britain’s House of Lords court ruled the gravity of the charges should not be understated and they would carry a maximum life sentence under English law.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac, writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Richard Balmforth