A motion calling for ‘urgent reform’ to the US/UK treaty which is being used to try to wrestle Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon to America was passed uncontested by MPs.
No vote was called when it became clear the motion had overwhelming support after being backed by a string of heavyweight speakers from all parties.
It is a huge victory for those campaigners who urged Parliament to resist American pressure and ‘stand up for Britain’.
Tory MP Dominic Raab, who led the debate, said it was about defending ‘the price we place on the liberty of our citizens and the value we ascribe to that cornerstone of British justice – innocent until proven guilty.’
He told MPs that Mr McKinnon, who is wanted for hacking U.S military computers while searching for evidence of ‘little green men’, had been treated like a ‘gangland mobster or Al Qaeda operative’.
The motion is not binding on the Government, but sends a clear message to David Cameron that MPs want changes to both the 2003 UK/US treaty and a separate extradition deal with Brussels.
It will strengthen his hand in any future talks with the EU and the Americans – who were desperate for the motion not to pass.
Tory whips had been considering forcing ministers to vote against seeking change to the U.S. treaty but backed down yesterday morning.
The decision is likely to win plaudits for Mr Cameron, who faced an angry backlash when forcing his MPs to vote against plans to reform the EU in October.
Labour leader Ed Miliband also decided not to force a vote on the issue. He has conceded there are legitimate questions to answer about the treaty, which Labour signed in 2003.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been a strong supporter of the case for changing extradition laws and a string of his MPs spoke out.
The motion calls for urgent reform to the lopsided Act – which gives far greater protection to Americans than it does to their British counterparts.
MPs heard that since 2004, 29 UK nationals or dual nationals were extradited from Britain to the US. Only five Americans were extradited from the U.S. to Britain.
Despite the evidence the treaty is unfair, the U.S embassy has been fiercely resisting any changes.
Last week, the U.S Ambassador made two separate visits to lobby MPs, leading to allegations he was using strong-arm tactics.
The changes MPs want pursuing are to give British citizens equal protections under the treaty and, crucially, to introduce a new ‘forum’ test.
This means a person would normally be tried in the country where their crime took place. In the case of Mr McKinnon, he hacked into Pentagon and NASA computers from the bedroom of his north London flat.
Mr Raab told MPs: ‘The Gary McKinnon case is about the injustice in dispatching someone with Asperger’s syndrome hundreds of miles from home on allegations of computer hacking when he was apparently searching for unidentified flying objects.
‘Mr McKinnon should not be treated like some gangland mobster or Al Qaeda operative. We ought to have some discretion to prosecute this kind of case here.’
Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the extradition rules, passed in the wake of 9/11, were rarely being used for terrorist cases.
He added that, if no changes were made, ‘you will have far more Gary McKinnons extradited than Osama bin Ladens’.
A string of MPs made the case for Mr McKinnon – subject of the Mail’s Affront to Justice campaign – to be tried in Britain.
The motion, also backed by Labour’s Keith Vaz and the Lib Dem Sir Menzies Campbell, also seeks changes to the hugely controversial European Arrest Warrant – which allows British citizens to be fast-tracked to other member states without solid evidence being provided of any wrongdoing.
Some 1,173 people, including both Britons and Europeans, were sent from the UK for trial last year compared with just 178 in 2006/7.
MPs relayed a sting of ‘horror’ stories concerning constituents who had suffered appalling mistreatment only to be found innocent.
Serious concerns have also emerged that the warrants are being used to extradite individuals accused of minor offences.
Ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett said MPs should MPs should review the EAW, which he said had been ‘distorted’ by cases from eastern Europe to Greece. This was needed to make sure it was a ‘sensible application of justice’.
He added there was also room to negotiate with the Americans over issues such as cyber-attack to decide how the cases should be dealt with.
Yesterday, the mother of Mr McKinnon wrote a powerful open letter in the Mail urging MPs to stand up for Britain. It said the extradition laws were creating ‘terror without end’.