The Home Secretary blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States earlier today, arguing that it would infringe his human rights because he has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Moreover, Theresa May has said she will introduce a forum bar which means that judges can block extradition in cases where the alleged offence is deemed to have been committed in the UK. The Crown Prosecution Service has already been instructed to draw up guidance relating to this. This is a significant victory for campaigners against Britain’s lopsided extradition treaty with the United States but many are also questioning its timing.
Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan were deported to the United States to face terrorism charges two weeks ago. The parallels with the McKinnon case are uncanny. Much like McKinnon, Ahmad and Ahsan face charges relating to internet activity on a website run from Britain but hosted on American servers. One of the accused, Ahsan, also suffers from Asperger’s. A forum bar would have almost certainly prevented their extradition.
This is not to say these men don’t have cases to answer, but campaigners have long argued they should stand trial here. Ahmad’s family welcomed the decision not to extradite McKinnon but accused May of ‘blatant old-fashioned racism’. The extradition imbalance with America has finally been addressed – but not the feeling of double standards that supporters of Ahmad and Ahsan now accuse the government of.