Call for minister to stop extradition of British student


WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER Jimmy Wales has made a rare political intervention to call on UK home affairs minister Theresa May to stop the extradition of British student Richard O’Dwyer to the US for alleged copyright offences.

Launching an online campaign, Mr Wales said Mr O’Dwyer (24) was the “human face” of a global battle over the interests of the film and TV industries and the wider public, which came to a head in the global outcry against the proposed US legislation, Sopa and Pipa, cracking down on copyright infringement.

Mr O’Dwyer, a multimedia student at Sheffield Hallam University in northern England, faces up to 10 years in a US prison for founding, a crowdsourced site linking to places to watch full TV shows and movies online.

“When I met Richard, he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person we can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet,” Mr Wales wrote in a comment article for the Guardian.

“Given the thin case against him, it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges for something that he is not being prosecuted for here. No US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for alleged criminal activity that took place on US soil.

“From the beginning of the internet, we have seen a struggle between the interests of the ‘content industry’ and the interests of the general public. Due to heavy lobbying and much money lavished on politicians, until very recently the content industry has won every battle.

“We, the users of the internet, handed them their first major defeat earlier this year with the epic Sopa/Pipa protests which culminated in a widespread internet blackout and 10 million people contacting the US Congress to voice their opposition.

“Together, we won the battle against Sopa and Pipa. Together, we can win this one, too.”

Mr Wales was at the forefront of the campaign against the Sopa and Pipa bills aimed at enforcing online copyright more vigorously, which many warned would threaten sites at the core of the internet: Google, Wikipedia and others.

With other senior editors, Mr Wales set aside for the first time Wikipedia’s vaunted principle of neutrality, blacking out the online encyclopedia for a day as a warning of the consequences of too-strict copyright enforcement.

Yesterday, he launched a petition on, an international campaigning website which garnered 2.2 million signatures for a campaign to prosecute the killer of Trayvon Martin in the US.

Mr Wales’s petition called on Ms May to stop Mr O’Dwyer’s extradition. Under UK law, Ms May must grant permission for extraditions to proceed, so she is able to stop extraditions without recourse to the courts.

Mr O’Dwyer’s cause has already attracted cross-party support in the UK from prominent MPs, including the Liberal Democrat party’s president, Tim Farron, the chair of the home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, and liberal Conservatives such as David Davis and Dominic Raab.

Other US extraditions, such as those of alleged computer hacker Gary McKinnon and the NatWest Three, have led to calls for reform of the US/UK extradition treaty.

– (Guardian service)