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June 29, 2012

Wikipedia Founder’s petition against O’Dwyer’s extradition reaches over 160,000 signatures

The petition by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales against the decision for British student, Richard O’Dwyer, to be extradited to the US to stand trial for copyright infringement has gained more than 160,000 signatures in just five days.

By Tineka Smith

Richard O'Dwyer
Richard O’Dwyer currently faces extradition to the US

The success of the petition puts increasing pressure on Home Secretary Theresa May to reverse her decision on extraditing the 23 year old British student to the U.S. to stand trial.

The campaign launched in conjunction with the Guardian newspaper has gained support from celebrities as well as potitiicans including Liberal Democrate MP Mike Crockart, Labour Deputy Chair Tom Watson MP, and Conservative MP Lousie Mensch who describes the extradition as "unconscionable."

Jimmy Wales wrote in the Guardian that O’Dwyer’s extradition decision to the states is an "outrage."

"Given the thin case against him [Richard], it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges for something that he is not being prosecuted for here," said Wales. "No US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for alleged criminal activity that took place on US soil."

The 23 year old student faces extradition for providing links on his website, TVShack to watch film and TV content owned predominantly by US producers for free.

Graham Linehan writer of sitcoms The IT Crowd, Black Books and Father Ted, signed the petition, saying: "It just seems to me that people like Richard are being punished for being able to navigate the modern world. The Internet has changed everything, they’re doing what comes naturally in these new uncharted waters and suddenly they’re getting their collars felt by people who still have Hotmail addresses."

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If O’Dwyer is sent to the US and found guilty he could face imprisonment.

Julia O’Dwyer, Richard’s mother says that she hopes Theresa May will reverse her decision.

"I’m blown away by the response to Jimmy’s petition. It’s been a tough year campaigning for my son but this outpouring of support from around the world has really made politicians sit up and take note of Richard’s case," said O’Dwyer. "Now it’s time for Theresa May to do the right thing by Richard."

US authorities say that the 24 year old student illegally made £147,000 from advertising displayed on the website. However, O’Dwyer’s lawyers argue that linking to other content is not illegal under UK law. The US and UK are currently parties in an extradition treaty.

"This is a huge petition in terms of the site’s UK history, which is testament to the power of the story behind it," says Brie Rogers Lowery, Campaigns Director for Change.org/uk.

"It’s precisely what Change.org was started for – an open platform where anyone can challenge those in power to change the world for the better."

Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.

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