A 22-year old Briton who was detained in Spain in connection with a Twitter hack last year that compromised the accounts of several U.S. politicians including then presidential candidate Joe Biden has been jailed pending an extradition hearing, a court source said on Thursday (July 22).
Joseph James O’Connor appeared before Spain’s High Court via videolink from the southern town of Estepona where he was detained on Wednesday (July 21)
O’Connor’s lawyer in Estepona said that his client, who faces several charges in the United States, had told the court he opposed extradition and said he was innocent of all charges.
“When the police arrested him he said: I’m innocent, show me the evidence, because I have no involvement,” his mother, Sandra O’Connor, an Estepona resident, told Reuters, adding that the family would fight against the extradition.
The jailing and extradition proceedings come just over a month after the death of British-U.S. software mogul John McAfee in a Spanish prison by what authorities believe was a suicide while he awaited extradition to the United States, which raised questions about prisoners’ safety.
The July 2020 Twitter attack hijacked a variety of verified accounts, including then-Democratic candidate Biden and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The accounts of former President Barack Obama, TV reality star Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Kayne West were also hit.
The hacker used the accounts to solicit digital currency, prompting Twitter to take the extraordinary step of preventing some verified accounts from publishing messages for several hours until security to the accounts could be restored.
The High Court judge jailed O’Connor as a precautionary measure after taking into account the flight risk and the seriousness of the case laid out by the U.S. Justice Department. The court is expected to set an extradition hearing in the next few months.
Sandra O’Connor said her son had requested being released on bail, citing a medical condition among other reasons, which the court denied.
“Joseph is only 22. He’s never been arrested, he has never been in trouble and has very serious health problems – a back injury,” she said.
(Production: Jon Nazca, Elena Rodriguez, Catherine Macdonald)