'NASA hacker' Gary McKinnon has lost his European Court of Human Rights appeal against extradition to the US.

McKinnon, 42, is charged in the US with unauthorised access to computers and causing damage to a protected system. He has fought attempts to try him in the US, where he fears he could be treated as a terrorist, tried in a military tribunal and ultimately imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

The European Court of Human Rights held up his extradition earlier this month and called for a meeting today to decide whether attempts to try him in the US should be blocked. However, the court ruled this morning that he must face US courts, and he now faces extradition within two weeks.

McKinnon, who was originally arrested six-and-a-half years ago, was said to be "distraught" at today's ruling, and UK security experts said the high-profile case should serve as a warning to other hackers.

"The US authorities will be rubbing its hands together in glee at the news that they are finally going to get their hands on McKinnon," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "They have sent a clear message that they are set on hunting down anyone who attempts to breach their computer systems and compromise their data, with McKinnon now facing the uncomfortable prospect of an American trial."

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48% say McKinnon should be extradited