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Government 'would push for Gary McKinnon to serve sentence i

Harriet Harman says if hacker with Asperger's were sentenced to prison in US, UK would push for him to be moved to Britain

The government will push for Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker fighting extradition to the US, to serve his sentence in a British prison if he is found guilty, Labour's deputy leader said today.

Seeking to defuse the growing political row over McKinnon's extradition, Harriet Harman said that if he were convicted by an American court, Britain would move quickly to arrange for him to serve any jail term in the UK.

Harman, who is standing in for Gordon Brown this week while the prime minister is on holiday, also disclosed that the US had given assurances that if extradition took place, McKinnon's health needs would be taken care of.

McKinnon has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and his supporters fear his health would suffer in a maximum security jail in the US.

"If he is found guilty, then obviously straight away we will seek for him to serve any prison sentence - if he is sentenced to prison - back in this country," Harman told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

Amid growing calls from civil rights groups and the opposition to block McKinnon's extradition, Harman defended the government's reluctance to intervene. "If the Americans have made out in court a case that this is an allegation of an offence of sufficient seriousness that they want him to stand trial in America, I don't think it should be for the British government or any British politician to say we are going to second-guess the criminal justice system," she said.

Earlier, McKinnon's mother accused the home secretary, Alan Johnson, of doing America's bidding instead of defending the rights of British citizens. Janis Sharp's comments came after Johnson, writing in the Sunday Times, said the crimes McKinnon is accused of were "far from trivial" and that he should be tried fairly for them in the country where the impact of those crimes was felt. "If I were to oppose his extradition I would be breaking the law," Johnson wrote.

But Sharp said Johnson was "doing America's job" when he should be "standing up for British citizens". She said her son, who is wanted for trial on charges of hacking into US military computers, could "easily" be tried in the UK if the government intervened to stop his extradition.

Sharp told Sky News: "I was very disappointed because not only is he [Johnson] trying not to stand up for Gary's rights, he actually is trying to incriminate him by talking about 9/11 and all the people that died and then mentioning Gary's name."

She admitted her son's actions had been "very stupid" and "ludicrous", but repeated her plea for him to be tried in the UK. On Friday, a high court judge rejected a request to force Johnson to reconsider the case.

McKinnon, 43, a self-confessed "bumbling computer nerd", has admitted hacking into US government computers, but denies malicious intent.

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