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Hacker faces US justice after lost Euro appeal

Hacker Gary McKinnon's final hope of staying in Britain is gone, and now he has to face justice - American style.

Gavel and keyboard

Gary McKinnon, accused by the US of "the biggest military hack of all time" lost a final appeal to an Euro court and could be extradited within weeks.

The British computer expert, 42, had asked the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition to the US, complaining that he could face inhumane prison conditions if convicted there.

The court rejected the appeal.

McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted in America of illegally accessing computers, including those of the Pentagon, U.S. army, navy and NASA, and causing $700,000 (381,134) worth of damage.

"The appeal is lost," said Karen Todner, of Kaim Todner solicitors, representing McKinnon. "He is completely distraught, all of them are, his family, his girlfriend."

Todner said her client would now appeal to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to try to persuade her to reconsider an earlier decision and prosecute her client in the UK.

"Failing that he will be extradited ... probably within the next three weeks," Todner added.

She said her client had recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and hoped Smith would take this information into account.

McKinnon lost his appeal in July to Britain's highest court to block extradition to face charges in the US.

He told Reuters in 2006 he was just a computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens really existed and became obsessed with trawling large military networks for proof.

His lawyers have argued that sending him to the US would breach his human rights because he could be prosecuted on account of his nationality or political opinions.

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