Court says Britain should not send hacker to U.S.

Gary McKinnon leaves Bow Street magistrates court in central London May 10, 2006. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

PARIS (Reuters) - A European court has asked Britain to delay sending a computer expert to face trial in the United States until it can review his request to block his extradition.

The European Court of Human Rights said on Wednesday it needed to examine Gary McKinnon’s complaint that he could face inhumane prison conditions if convicted in the United States.

“The applicant should not be extradited to the United States before midnight on 29 August,” so the court can examine his request at its next meeting on August 28, it said in a statement.

McKinnon lost his appeal last month to Britain’s highest court to block extradition to face charges over what U.S. prosecutors call “the biggest military hack of all time”.

He could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted of illegally accessing computers, including the Pentagon, U.S. army, navy and NASA systems, and causing $700,000 worth of damage.

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

His lawyers have also argued that sending him to the United States would breach his human rights because he could be prosecuted on account of his nationality or political opinions.

Reporting by Brian Rohan