by Alexander and Sirkka Love
On 16 September District Judge Nina Tempia ruled that Lauri should be extradited to the US for alleged hacking of computers of various US Government institutions.
The decision came as a surprise and shock to us, and to Lauri’s legal team who had presented clear and compelling evidence to the contrary.
Here are 10 reasons why we believe Lauri’s extradition is wrong and should be blocked.
The Extradition Act is flawed
The 2003 Extradition Act was drawn up during Tony Blair’s administration and in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity to make it easier to extradite terrorists and other dangerous criminals to the US. The treaty and its application have been controversial from the start and are seen by many as unbalanced as US only needs to show “reasonable suspicion” rather than any evidence to request extradition. Questions have been raised by politicians of all persuasions as well as the general public. In 2012 the Home Affairs Select Committee acknowledged that there was a low level of public confidence in the legislation.
Lauri is a UK citizen
Lauri is a UK citizen and his alleged crimes would have been committed while he lived in the UK. Many countries (for example, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland) do not extradite their own citizens because they affirm their constitutional rights. It also seems that few, if any, US citizens have been extradited to the UK for crimes committed while they were living in the US.
Extradition is punishment before trial
Extradition is a punishment in itself, and it punishes a person who has not been tried and found guilty. Because Lauri exercised his legal right to oppose extradition, he would be taken in chains to a plane and then placed on remand in a high-security prison. Lauri would be considered a flight risk so there would be no possibility of bail.
This pre-trial detention could be for months and quite possibly even longer than Lauri would serve in prison if he were tried and convicted in the UK. It would deprive him of his family life (which is one of the basic human rights), his country and culture, and place him in detention because of suspicion of a non violent crime that noone claims he benefited from personally.
Preparing a legal defence in the US would be very difficult
Lauri’s pre-trial treatment in the US would be unfair. He would cease to be entitled to legal aid and would have to fund his entire US legal defence on his own.
Lauri’s ability to prepare his defence would be compromised because of his lack of access to information, computers and other means of communication. This disadvantage would not arise if he was in the UK where he would be allowed bail and he would be working within a system that he is familiar with.
Lauri’s mental and physical health would deteriorate
Lauri’s physical and mental health needs would not met in the US. Lauri has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome which makes him vulnerable to adverse reactions to change (for example, all his hair fell out when we moved house in 2000), and to depression. He has been suffering from depression since his mid-teens and at times he has been suicidal.
Lauri’s physical health is poor – he suffers from severe eczema, frequent bacterial infections and asthma. These conditions would be exacerbated by the stress he would be under if he were taken to US and all that he would have to face there. Judge Tempia acknowledged these serious health concerns despite ruling to extradite Lauri. She did not dispute the medical evidence Lauri’s legal team offered to support his diagnoses.
Lauri is at a high risk of suicide
There is a real danger of Lauri taking his own life if he is extradited to the US. The evidence given by a number of witnesses during the extradition hearing concluded that the treatment of mental health problems and suicidal feelings is woefully inadequate in US prisons, and that the methods used to deal with suicide risk are dangerously flawed.
In 2012, Theresa May as Home Secretary decided that Gary McKinnon’s “extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him taking his own life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with his human rights”. Gary, like Lauri, has Aspergers and suffers from depression; the two cases are strikingly similar. Theresa May’s decision was applauded at the time – what has changed?
The US prosecution is heavy handed and disproportionate
Lauri is facing not just one but three extradition requests which means that he can be tried in three different states. The Americans say this is because his alleged hacking involved computer servers in different locations. What it boils down to is that each judge could give him the longest possible sentence allowed, and they could be added together so that he could face decades in prison. The prospect of such a massive sentence would add to the pressure of plea bargaining and make Lauri forgo his right to a trial and plead guilty rather than risk spending a huge amount of time in a foreign prison.
Lauri could spend decades in prison
Because of the three separate trials and also due to more severe sentencing policy in the US, Lauri’s sentence would be totally disproportionate compared with the sentence that he would receive in the UK for the same crime. His legal team have calculated a potential maximum sentence of 99 years, effectively a life sentence.
Justice would be better served in the UK
Lauri could be tried in the UK. A change was introduced to the Extradition Act in 2013 that allows the judge to rule that it would be in the interests of justice to try the person in the UK instead. Surely it is “in the interest of justice” that Lauri lives and faces the consequences of his alleged actions in front of a jury of his peers, in his home country where he can be supported through his trial and possible punishment by his family and friends. How would justice be served by Lauri returning from the States in a body bag?
There is no public interest in extraditing Lauri
Judge Tempia’s concluding comment was that “there is a strong public interest that the United Kingdom should honour its extradition treaty obligations with other countries.” Looking at the controversy and the concerns expressed by politicians of all persuasions, the media and the general public, it seems more appropriate to conclude that there is an even stronger public interest in reviewing extradition obligations so that we arrive at a treaty that is fair and balanced, and fully takes into account the human rights of each and every person.