Alleged hacker wins bid to stop extradition to US

Lauri Love is accused of involvement in a series of hacks on government agencies

 Alleged British computer hacker Lauri Love (R) and his partner Sylvia Mann (L) pose for media in  London, Britain. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Alleged British computer hacker Lauri Love (R) and his partner Sylvia Mann (L) pose for media in London, Britain. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

 

An autistic British man accused of hacking into US government agencies won his appeal against extradition to the US on Monday but was told he should be prosecuted in Britain instead.

Lauri Love, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of involvement in a series of hacks in 2012 and 2013 into computers at agencies including the FBI, the US army, the Missile Defence Agency and the Federal Reserve.

Charged with multiple offences in three US indictments, Mr Love had been facing life imprisonment in the US if found guilty, a fate which he said could lead him to take his own life.

“Very happy, relieved, very thankful for the High Court, for the judges,” a beaming Love, surrounded by cheering supporters, told waiting reporters outside the courthouse after his appeal was upheld by the British High Court.

A lower court in London had approved his extradition in 2016.

Love has been diagnosed with clinical depression and he suffers from stress-aggravated eczema, conditions which he manages with a complex medication regime and support from his parents.

“We come to the conclusion that Mr Love’s extradition would be oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition,” two High Court judges wrote in their ruling on his appeal.

Love’s lawyers had argued that he was not seeking to avoid justice, and was prepared to stand trial in Britain. The judges indicated that was what should now happen.

“The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) must now bend its endeavours to his prosecution, with the assistance to be expected from the authorities in the US, recognising the gravity of the allegations in this case,” they wrote.

US authorities say Love was connected to Anonymous, an international group of hackers, and that his actions had caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

Legal precedent

His legal case sets a precedent that could be relevant to future extradition cases in Britain, because it is the first successful use of a legal provision called the “forum bar” which allows British judges to block extradition if it is not in the interests of justice.

The lower court had ruled that the forum bar did not apply in Love’s case, but the High Court judges said that it did.

The forum bar was introduced in 2013 after the extradition to the US of Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon was blocked by British prime minister Theresa May, in her former role as home secretary.

McKinnon, who also had Asperger’s, said he broke into US state computers while on a “moral crusade” to find classified documents about UFOs. Ms May said he was seriously ill and extradition would violate his human rights.

Love’s law firm, Kaim Todner, said in a statement his case was a legal landmark not only because of the successful use of the forum bar but also because the ruling recognised that mental health provisions in US prisons were not adequate to keep Love safe. – Reuters