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Parliamentarians ask Obama to withdraw Lauri Love extradition request

Cross-party collective of 105 MPs sign open letter to US President to save Love

By Alexander J Martin, 24 Oct 2016

A cross-party collective of 105 UK MPs has penned an open letter to US President Barack Obama, requesting that he intervene to withdraw the extradition requests for alleged #OpLastResort hacker Lauri Love.

The letter is been signed by Culture Minister Matt Hancock MP, who is the Love family's constituency MP, as well as scores of backbenchers.

Lauri Love, an alleged hacktivist from Stradishall, Suffolk, is sought by the US for his alleged involvement in #OpLastResort, online protests that followed the suicide of activist Aaron Swartz, whom federal prosecutors had threatened with 35 years in prison and damages of $1m. Love faces a maximum of 99 years in prison and damages of roughly $10m.

Despite warnings that extraditing Love, who has Asperger's Syndrome, would almost certainly drive him to kill himself, a UK district judge ruled in September that there was no legal reason to believe it would be an infringement of Love's human rights for him to be extradited to the US.

David Burrowes MP, who had asked Theresa May about the extradition of Love during last Wednesday's PMQs, was among the first signatories of the letter, alongside Barry Sheerman MP and Alistair Carmichael MP.

Burrowes, who had campaigned for sysadmin Gary McKinnon, who also has Asperger's and was also subject to an extradition order from the United States on accusations of hacking, called on the Prime Minister to recognise the similarities in this case, which formed the first substantive test of the “forum bar” — the legal mechanism established to prevent extradition in cases where it would be deleterious to defendants' human rights.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May had personally introduced this bar into legislation after blocking the extradition of McKinnon, and it was a key part of Love's defence that he would be at risk of suicide if extradited, with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the University of Cambridge's Autism Research Centre, stating that “there is absolutely no question that [Love] has Asperger's [Syndrome]” as well as severe depression and aggressive anxiety-related eczema, and was at a “very high” risk of committing suicide if imprisoned within the US system.

McKinnon, who admitted hacking into US military systems back in 2001-02 but has always denied the US's damage assessment, had his extradition requests refused by Westminster on human rights grounds due to the risk that he would end his life.

The district judge hearing Love's agreed with the assessment of the young man's mental health, and agreed with testimony given by Professor Baron-Cohen and Professor Kopelman that Love would attempt suicide before extradition to the United States. However, the judge believed that the UK and US could arrange for this to be prevented, by putting Love on suicide watch for instance.

A US Embassy spokesperson told The Register on Monday that Love's fate is in the hands of the British legal system: “This matter is currently subject to UK extradition proceedings, with the opportunity for the legal issues to be thoroughly raised and considered. We await the outcome of the UK legal process.”

Here's full letter written by MPs in response to September's judgment:

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr President,

We are writing to you with deep concern for the safety of Mr Lauri Love (born December 14, 1984) who is facing extradition to the United States for his alleged involvement in digital civil disobedience in 2013.

If Mr Love has committed a crime, he should be prosecuted and justice should be served. However, following meetings with Mr Love, his immediate family and advisors, we believe that if he is extradited, there is a great probability that he will end his own life. This has been confirmed by eminent medical experts.

Mr Love has a long history of serious mental health issues, depression and some episodes of psychosis and significantly has a diagnosis of a form of autism namely Asperger Syndrome. Furthermore, Mr Love suffers from severe eczema which is anxiety related and antibiotic resistant. Mr Love takes regular courses of steroids to keep this under control and as his parents stated in court Mr Love has to take hour long baths every night to manage this chronic dermatological condition.

Consequently, there is significant concern that Mr Love's physical and mental well-being would deteriorate and become unmanageable if he were extradited. We have no doubt in mind that there will be potentially fatal consequences if the United States chooses to pursue this extradition and prohibit Mr Love from facing a full prosecution in his home country.

The UK has prosecuted at least twelve computer hackers who have hacked US-based computer systems. Indeed, Mr Love would be the first UK-based computer hacker to be extradited and denied the opportunity to face a full prosecution in the UK. The UK criminal justice system is equipped to bring justice through sentencing and rehabilitating people who are adjudged to have committed these crimes. Many of these twelve cases did not involve individuals who have significant mental health issues, nor Asperger Syndrome and were not at a high-risk of suicide, yet they were not extradited. We would like to ask, why then is the United States insistent on Mr Love’s extradition despite the UK having a proven track record of appropriately sentencing and rehabilitating individuals who have committed computer hacking offences against the US?

The UK District Judge accepted that Mr Love would be at a very high-risk of taking his own life is he were to be extradited. In contrast, Mr Love has the potential to return to life as a productive member of society and is already peer-mentoring at a university while completing his degree.

We would ask you to intervene in this case by withdrawing the extradition order and allow his case to be heard in the criminal justice system in the UK. You would be acting to prevent this vulnerable and mentally unwell man from being placed in a situation where he will most probably take his own life.

Mr Love should face prosecution for any crimes committed in his own country where his suicide-risk is exponentially reduced. We urge you to carry out an act of compassion in your final days as President by withdrawing Mr Love’s extradition warrant.

Yours sincerely,

A full list of the letter's 105 signatories is available here. They include 39 Conservative MPs, 39 Labour MPs, 22 MPs from the Scottish National Party, three Liberal Democrats, as well as Mark Durkin MP from the SDLP and Green MP Caroline Lucas. ®

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