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UK government to pardon Alan Turing, 61 years later

Brilliant code-breaker killed himself after “gross indecency” conviction

British mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing. Credit: wikimedia.org

British mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing will be posthumously pardoned by the British government for the crime of gross indecency, The Guardian reports

A Conservative member of the House of Lords, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, told the house July 19 that the government was prepared to support a Liberal Democrat bill pardoning Turing. 

“The government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective,” Ahmad said. “That is why the government believe it is right that parliament should be free to respond to this bill in whatever way its conscience dictates and in whatever way it so wills."

Turing not only broke the German Enigma code during the Second World War, helping to save Britain from starvation, but also laid the groundwork for the field of computer science. He killed himself shortly after he was sentenced to chemical castration for being gay. 

The government’s support of the bill is a reversal of position. Last year, the Conservatives refused to support a bill that would have pardoned all gay men convicted under indecency laws. 

In 2009, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for the “appalling” way Alan Turing was treated for being gay.

"This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality, and long overdue,” Brown wrote in the UK Telegraph

"It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present. 

“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work, I am very proud to say: we’re sorry. You deserved so much better.”