US extradition bid is ‘illegal’

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Lawyers for a Sheffield student facing extradition on copyright charges will argue attempts to try him in America are illegal, a court heard yesterday.

Richard O’Dwyer, aged 23, of Shoreham Street, near Sheffield city centre, faces up to five years in jail if convicted in America over running his website which provided hyperlinks to films.

The Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate, whose family live in Chesterfield, appeared before City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a short preliminary hearing.

He has refused to give his consent to be extradited and is fighting the US authorities.

His case will be heard in two parts, starting on November 3 at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court, where his solicitors hope to prove his actions were legal under UK law.

A second hearing is due to take place on November 17, but the venue has not yet been decided.

Melanie Riley, spokeswoman for O’Dwyer, said: “At the full extradition hearing, Richard’s lawyers will argue that Richard’s conduct does not amount to an extraditable offence. Richard lives and studies in the UK – neither his servers nor his computer were in the US.

“The alleged conduct took place entirely in the UK and was not directed at the US. There seems no plausible reason to disrupt the university education of this talented student, midway through his four-year course, by forcibly removing him from this country on these allegations to face trial in the US.”

She added that, since his ordeal began, Richard has built a new website campaigning for a change in extradition laws.

The student has been accused of the US offences of copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright. But his mother, Julia O’Dwyer, said she was certain his actions in providing links to other websites did not constitute an extraditable offence.

She said: “Anyone can see that extraditing a young aspiring student on alleged copyright offences is hugely disproportionate.”

O’Dwyer’s lawyer Ben Cooper, who is also representing 26-year-old alleged hacker Gary McKinnon in his fight against extradition to the US, said he would argue that the case breached O’Dwyer’s human rights.

He argues there is no case against O’Dwyer because the server was not based in the US and there was no copyrighted material on his website.

District Judge Nicholas Evans bailed O’Dwyer on conditions that include reporting weekly to a police station in Sheffield.

He was also told not to enter ports or airports, not to apply for international travel documents, and not to use the internet to access the website TV Shack or to register a new domain name.

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