By Peter Hobson
LONDON (Reuters) - A court in London on Friday approved the extradition of a British man to the United States to face trial for hacking high-security state computers, despite warnings he might kill himself if sent to a U.S. jail.
Lauri Love, 32, who has Asperger's syndrome, faces a lifetime in prison in the United States if found guilty of involvement in a series of hacks in 2012 and 2013 into computers at agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. army, the Missile Defense Agency and the Federal Reserve.
U.S. authorities say Love was connected to Anonymous, an international group of hackers who wear Guy Fawkes masks at protests and orchestrated hacks on U.S. institutions, and argued his actions had caused millions of dollars' worth of damage and that he had stolen employees' personal details.
"I accept Mr Love suffers from both physical and mental health issues but I have found the medical facilities in the United States prison estate ... are such that I can be satisfied his needs will be comprehensively met by the U.S. authorities," judge Nina Tempia said in her ruling.
Love, who suffers episodes of depression and psychosis, has said he could take his life if sent to a U.S. prison and his U.S. lawyer Tor Ekeland said the U.S. penal system would "crush" his client.
"They want to destroy him because they want to use him as an example," Ekeland told Reuters.
The judge's decision must be ratified by Britain's Home Secretary (interior minister). Love's lawyers are expected to launch an appeal.
"If you're here for justice, you missed it," Love said after the verdict was announced at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Love's legal team had argued he should be tried in Britain pointing to new rules that make it easier for British courts to try people for crimes committed in the country.
Those rules were introduced in 2012 after the extradition to the United States of Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon was blocked by then-Home Secretary Theresa May, who is now Prime Minister.
McKinnon, who also had Asperger's, said he broke into U.S. state computers while on a "moral crusade" to find classified documents about UFOs. May said he was seriously ill and extradition would violate his human rights.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Janet Lawrence)