UK / Europe — 17 October 2012
If Gary Was Called Ahmad

What if Gary McKinnon had been a Muslim? An alternative reading of events

The case of Muslim convert Ahmad McKinnon’s battle against extradition has drawn to a close more than 10 years after his initial arrest. Ahmad was first arrested ,in March 2002, after police raided his house in the early hours of the morning, confiscating computer equipment allegedly used to hack into United States military and NASA equipment.

Under questioning at Paddington Green Police State, in a specialist unit for interrogation of high-level terrorist suspects, he admitted responsibility for hacking into US Government computers, including the Army’s Military District of Washington network and the Naval Weapons Station Earle network. He stated that his targets were high level US Army, Navy and Airforce computers and that his ultimate goal was to gain access to the US military classified information network.

He also admitted leaving a note on one Army computer that read “US foreign policy is akin to Government-sponsored terrorism these days“. Though Ahmad has stated that he is an opponent of what he claims is an “oppressive American foreign policy”, he has constantly denied supporting terrorism or that he intended any harm by accessing and deleting data across the military network between February 2001 until his arrest in 2002[1].

Over the course of the ten years contesting his extradition to the United States, Ahmad has been kept in high-level security conditions at HMP Belmarsh, with his requests for bail denied due to the security risk he poses[2].

His supporters have campaigned vigorously for him, claiming that he should be tried in the UK rather than extradited to the US given his mental condition (Ahmad suffers from Aspergers syndrome), and collected more than 100,000 signatories to petition the government to discuss his case in parliament. However, the family contend that media coverage has been biased and negligent, with politicians and media alike conflating his case and others also fighting extradition with the case of tabloid villain Abu Hamza, who faces unrelated charges in the US.

After exhausting all channels in British and European courts to contest the extradition, in a last minute plea his lawyers claimed that as a result of his Aspergers, he is suffering from depression and his mental health would be at severe risk of deterioration  in the solitary confinement terror suspects are held in America’s so called “supermax” prison facilities, leading to Ahmad becoming a suicide risk. The High Court Judge rejected the plea stating that “there are excellent medical facilities in the United States”[3] which would be capable of ensuring his health there.

Upon his extradition, along with Abu Hamza and the four others wanted in the United States (including fellow Aspergers sufferer Talha Ahsan, wanted in the US for allegedly running a website with a server in the US that supported the cause of Chechen rebels), the Daily Mail ran the headline “Sling your hook” at the end of a media campaign supporting their expulsion[4].

In responding to widespread criticism as to why the extradition of Abu Hamza and others, including Ahmad, took so long – Home Secretary Theresa May responded that European legislation – the Human Rights Act – was to blame.

[1] The details of the online activities were copied from admissions as reported in the House of Lords report.

[2]All of the five Muslim detainees wanted for trial in the United States were held without charge in UK prisons for between 6 and 13 years before their extradition. Gary McKinnon was out on bail during his fight against extradition.

[3] This was the High court response to the plea made by Abu Hamza in a last ditch attempt to avoid extradiction

[4] The Daily Mail was at the forefront of supporting the case of Gary McKinnon, though noticeably absent from any such support for the case of Aspergers suffer Talha Ahsan

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