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Briton Lauri Love will be extradited to the US to face charges of hacking, Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled on Friday.
Love faces up to 99 years in prison in the US on charges of hacking as part of the Anonymous collective, according to his legal team.
Handing down her ruling at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, district judge Nina Tempia told Love that he can appeal against the decision.
The case will now be referred to the home secretary Amber Rudd while Love remains on bail.
Love, 31, is alleged to have been involved in the #OpLastResort hack in 2013, which targeted the US Army, the US Federal Reserve, the FBI, NASA, and the Missile Defense Agency in retaliation over the suicide, while awaiting trial, of Aaron Swartz.
Love’s legal team, led by Ben Cooper of Doughty Street Chambers, had argued that his case was similar to that of Gary McKinnon, another British citizen whose extradition to the US, also based on allegations of hacking, was blocked by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012.
Like McKinnon, Love has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and depression, conditions the defence argued would cause him to struggle in the US prison system.
Cooper said Love should instead face trial in the UK. His extradition has been requested by three jurisdictions: New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia.
The case was widely seen as a test of the so-called “forum bar” that would have allowed the courts to block extradition requests.
Sarah Harrison, director of the Courage Foundation, which runs Love’s defence fund and support campaign, said his legal team will apply to appeal against the ruling.
This is a very disappointing ruling, not just for Lauri and his family, but for everyone who was angry about what happened to Gary McKinnon.
Clear assurances were given that legal changes would prevent the McKinnon situation from happening again and frankly, if the forum bar can’t help Lauri Love, it’s very difficult to understand how it could ever help anyone.
This is not what the public was led to believe at the time and it’s not something we should stand for.
Judge Tempia said (PDF) that she was satisfied that her decision to extradite Love was “compatible with his Covention rights.”
She added: “I am satisfied that there is a substantial risk Mr Love will commit suicide.
The key issue then is what measures are in place to prevent any attempt at suicide being successful.
But I have found the medical facilities in the United States prison estate on arrival and during any sentence if he is convicted available to him, are such that I can be satisfied his needs will be comprehensively met by the US authorities.”
Tempia said that the US government “is not required to produce a prima facie case and it is not for me to determine if there is a case to answer,” before noting that “there is a strong public interest that the United Kingdom should honour its extradition treaty obligations with other countries.”
In its reasoning, the ruling states that “most, if not all, of the loss or harm resulting from Mr Love’s conduct occurred in the United States,” and notes that there are more than 20 witnesses—including an anonymous informant—all of whom are Stateside.
What happens next?
Extradition expert Edward Grange, a partner at Corker Binning legal firm, described the protection offered by the forum bar as “illusory.”
He told Ars: “As far as I am aware, since it came into effect in October 2013, no one has succeeded in barring their extradition by reason of forum. Love has four weeks from today to make representations to the secretary of state [Rudd],”
He added: “She has a limited remit and can only consider representations regarding: the death penalty; specialty; and earlier extradition from another country. None of these appear to apply to Love’s case.”
If Love’s appeal to the home secretary against the ruling prove unsuccessful, he can apply to the High Court for permission to challenge both the judge and Rudd’s decision. He would have to do so within 14 days of any refusal from the home secretary to block extradition, Grange said.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK