Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Abdelbaset Megrahi and Gary McKinnon

Leaked US embassy cables reveal that Gordon Brown unsuccessfully put his reputation as prime minister on the line in a plea to Washington that the computer hacker Gary McKinnon be allowed to serve any sentence in the UK. (...)

Brown made his unsuccessful direct intervention in August 2009, according to a secret cable from the US ambassador in the UK, Louis Susman, to the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Susman wrote: "PM Brown, in a one-on-one meeting with the ambassador, proposed a deal: that McKinnon plead guilty, make a statement of contrition, but serve any sentence of incarceration in the UK. Brown cited deep public concern that McKinnon, with his medical condition, would commit suicide or suffer injury if imprisoned in a US facility."

The ambassador says he sought to raise Brown's request in Washington with Obama's newly appointed attorney general, Eric Holder. But the plea got nowhere.

In October last year, the ambassador had to warn Clinton on a visit to the UK that the prime minister was likely to raise the McKinnon case again.

"McKinnon has gained enormous popular sympathy in his appeal against extradition; the UK's final decision is pending." he reported. "The case has also caused public criticism of the US-UK extradition treaty."

One reason for Brown's failure may have been barely contained US rage, spelled out in other secret cable traffic around the same time, that the UK was releasing the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Ali Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, to what turned out to be a hero's welcome in Libya.

[From a report published earlier today on The Guardian website. The "other secret cable traffic" relating to Megrahi's release does not seem to have yet been published.]

1 comment:

  1. Brown's plea on McKinnon's behalf should have succeeded. Indeed our own courts here in the UK should have blocked all requests to send him to the US for trial on the grounds that his crime was committed here in the UK. Because it was. Internet crime is considered to be committed in the country where the PC is located. That would be the UK in McKinnon's case. But Labour's man at the Home Office (was it Alan Johnston?) at the time refused to get involved.

    The difference between McKinnon and Megrahi of course is that McKinnon did indeed commit a very serious crime by accessing US sites he had no business hacking into, and military sites at that. Regardless of the medical condition he knew what he was doing and the very high risks he was taking. So I would not absolve him as some have sought to. I would say however that the UK government should be standing their ground and insisting he stands trial here and not in the US.