On Tuesday afternoon Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced that she would block Gary McKinnon’s extradition request to the US. This is certainly joyous news and should be celebrated. But celebrated for what reason? The most alarming aspect about this decision is that in a period of less than two weeks two very starkly different results have occurred for the two highest profile extradition cases in the past decade. Both concerned extradition to the US, and only one extradition request was refused. Why is it that McKinnon’s case appears to be the antithesis of the terrorism cases of Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan? What has changed so significantly between the Secretary of State’s decision yesterday and the Home Office’s gleeful extradition rhetoric concerning the other case nearly two weeks ago? In a previous article Sarah Walker and I focussed on the challenges that extradition law faced in the aftermath of the recently extradited terrorist suspects. In light of that article, this one will pick up where we left off, looking at what has changed between now and then and whether McKinnon’s case has actually changed anything for the better.
Friday night saw the final instalment in a series of the highest profile extradition cases in the past decade. After the High Court refused to grant permission for judicial review (official summary of judgment here) Abu Hamza, one of the most hated and reviled people in the UK, together with Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and the less notorious Al Fawaz and Abdel Bary, were boarded onto planes at RAF Mildenhall bound for the US. According to the Home Office’s Twitter account they ‘ensured plans were in place so these men could be handed over within hours of the court’s decision.’ Their planes left the UK around midnight.