Fighting extradition is a political battle as well as a legal one. If you’re in the UK, writing to your MP is a really important way you can help Lauri Love. Lauri’s case is controversial; it brings up a number of issues MPs will already be familiar with, and others that you can help them understand. If you ask that your concerns are passed on to the Home Office, they will be noticed.
The British public already understands that we have an unfair extradition treaty with the United States
Just like Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer, Lauri Love is facing extradition for alleged actions which would have happened in the UK and could be prosecuted here. The shortcomings in our extradition arrangements are well-known and have been the subject of several Parliamentary inquiries.
These shortcomings mean the United States is not obliged to present a prima facie case against Lauri Love, or disclose any of the alleged evidence against him. That’s important because his US attorney, Tor Ekeland, has gone on the record about the US government negligence that forms the basis of the indictments. The vulnerability cited in the indictments had been widely known about for months. The only damage that the US prosecution alleges is the time and money it spent investigating the case– that’s hardly worth an aggressive prosecution, multiple arrests and three extradition requests, let alone a potential 99 years in jail.
Even by American standards, this is a particularly heavy handed and vindictive prosecution
Lauri Love is alleged to have been involved in the series of online protests that followed the untimely death of Aaron Swartz, an event that sparked enormous debate about prosecutorial overreach within the United States. The criminal justice system that wants to put Lauri Love in jail for decades is the same one that he is accused of protesting against.
Lauri Love is facing not one but three separate extradition requests from different US court districts, which increase the potential sentence he risks well beyond anything a UK court would order – his legal team calculate a potential maximum sentence of 99 years. One of the reasons prosecutors in the United States levy such enormous charges is that they know they can almost always force defendants to take a plea deal. With charges in three separate US court districts to contend with, the prosecutors in Lauri Love’s case know they can pressure him not to have his day in court.
Comparable cases, tried in the UK and Ireland, have gone very differently. Convicted hackers have been given modest sentences that allow them to go on and use their skills for the betterment of society. If Lauri were able to stay in the UK, he would be able to continue using his insight and expertise to make the internet safer for everyone. If the British government is serious about addressing the skills gap in cybersecurity, extraditing Lauri Love would be incredibly counterproductive.
Lauri Love would face grave danger in the United States
Lauri Love has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, so the health concerns that were so prominent in Gary McKinnon case apply equally to his. Lauri also has issues with depression and anxiety; he needs to be close to his family and needs health care that he wouldn’t be able to access in the US prison system. Human Rights Watch, reporting on the state of US prison conditions, has noted “disturbing delays in providing vital medical help” and “serious concerns about the overall quality of medical help for federal inmates.” Lauri Love would be thrust into a cell an ocean away from the support system that has sustained him.
The use of solitary confinement is increasingly controversial even within the United States. The rate of solitary confinement in US prisons has been frequently criticised by advocacy groups and international human rights agencies including the UN Special Representative on Torture. Human Rights Watch have found that prisoners with mental health issues in US prisons are at disproportionate risk of being put in solitary confinement. Use of solitary, lack of access to communications and the resources needed to mount a proper defence are all endemic in hacking cases – the experiences of Jeremy Hammond and Barrett Brown are directly relevant to Lauri’s situation.
After Gary McKinnon won his battle to stay in the UK, the law was changed
The forum bar is supposed to protect vulnerable people by ensuring there is a proper attempt to bring a prosecution in the UK if possible. But there are serious concerns about how the National Crime Agency have conducted their investigation.
In May 2016, District Judge Nina Tempia – the same judge who ruled to approve Lauri’s extradition – found that the NCA had tried to circumvent human rights protections by asking the court to order Lauri to hand over his passwords under civil procedure rules. Legal commentators have been just as critical of the NCA, concluding that they have “abused the law” in Lauri’s case, making applications that are “duplicitous (in the legal sense) and abusive.”
The NCA’s lack of regard for proper procedure is systematic. Even they acknowledge that almost 90% of their warrants for search and seizure fall short of the proper standards. If the forum bar means anything, it should apply in Lauri’s case: the NCA have demonstrated that they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Writing your letter
In an age of electronic petitions, MPs’ offices receive hundreds of pro-forma emails every day, but it doesn’t take hundreds of thousands of signatures for a campaign to have an impact. An email – or, better still, a letter – written in your own words will be noticed.
If you ask your MP to pass your concerns on to the relevant Home Office Minister, Brandon Lewis, they will do that – and you can be sure that the Home Office will be keeping records of the number of letters they receive about Lauri Love. For everyone who takes the time to write a letter, central government knows there are dozens more who share their concerns – so even a couple of hundred letters can make a huge difference.
Need your MPs’ contact details? You can find them at theyworkforyou.com
If you’ve written a letter in support of Lauri, please let us know how you get on! It’s really useful for us to be able to keep track of how MPs have responded.