The mother of Scottish computer hacker Gary McKinnon will address the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday about her son’s fight against extradition to the Unites States.
In a debate entitled ‘British Justice: Working for disabled people? Discussing the Gary McKinnon case and beyond’, Janis Sharp will be amongst the speakers.
Mr McKinnon, 43, who was born in Glasgow but lives in north London, suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. He is wanted for trial in the US on charges of hacking into the country's military networks.
He was arrested in 2002 after American prosecutors accused him of hacking into computer systems of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defence and Nasa, as well as sabotaging vital American military systems after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
They say his actions caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. Mr McKinnon says that his motivation for his unauthorised use of sensitive networks was to find information on UFOs held by the US government, and his supporters have said it was just an obsession that went too far.
He claims that he wanted to find evidence of ‘reverse engineering’, that the US had captured UFOs and was making use of the technology they found, including anti-gravity and free energy. He also claimed to have uncovered evidence of American military personnel working in space, although he failed to keep any evidence.
Towards the end of his period of unauthorised use of the computer networks, he left anti-war messages on US government computers. Mr McKinnon was finally caught when he tried to download a photograph - which he believed was an alien spacecraft - from a Nasa computer. He was traced by the authorities because he used his own e-mail address.
Throughout his time hacking, Mr McKinnon said that he was no expert, categorising himself as a ‘nerd’ who had simply exploited loopholes in commonly-used software, claiming that sensitive networks were left unsecured or with the default password still in place.
When initially arrested under the Computer Misuse Act by the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, he was informed him that he would face community service. The Crown Prosecution Service, however, refused to charge him.
Later in 2002 he was later indicted by the American authorities, and in 2005, following the introduction of a new extradition treaty with the US, they began proceedings against him. He was placed on bail, with restrictions to his liberty including a ban on using computers with internet access.
In 2006 a British court ruled that he should be sent to the United States for trial. He has been fighting attempts to extradite him ever since. In 2007 he lost an initial appeal against the extradition, Law Lords finding that there had been no abuse of the legal process, and an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights - on the grounds that his detention in the United States could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment - was also turned down.
His lawyers appealed for him to be prosecuted in Britain on lesser charges, but the Crown Prosecution Service rejected their request. In July of this year, he lost his latest appeal against extradition but his supporters have said the case has a long way to go.