Dotcom extradition hearing adjourns in New Zealand

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The first day of Kim Dotcom’s US extradition hearing was adjourned Monday while the judge retired to consider whether to further delay proceedings.

Defence lawyers are asking for the extradition hearing to be delayed or dismissed, and want the court to rule on their argument before the hearing begins in earnest.

Judge Nevin Dawson said the court would re-convene on Thursday.

The court is being asked to decide whether Dotcom and his colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato should be extradited to the US to face charges of criminal copyright infringement, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, engaging in racketeering and conspiring to commit money laundering.

The hearing in the Auckland District Court has been postponed 10 times since Dotcom was arrested in New Zealand in 2012 on copyright charges related to his former online storage and file sharing website Megaupload.

Lawyer Christine Gordon, acting for the Crown on behalf of the US government, argued that the defence submissions could be dealt with as part of the main hearing, or at trial in the US if it went ahead.

But Grant Illingworth, lawyer for Ortmann and van der Kolk, said it would undermine confidence in the justice system if the petitions were not considered.

“The issue at this stage isn’t whether they will have a fair trial when they are extradited, but whether they will have a fair extradition hearing,” he said.

Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield questioned whether the charges were valid, saying New Zealand’s copyright law provided a “safe harbour” for internet service providers, and protected them from criminal sanction if their users breached copyright.

Dotcom was in the rear of the courtroom during the day-long hearing, sitting in a leather armchair he had brought from his Auckland mansion so as not to aggravate his back problems.

Before the hearing started, he posted on Twitter, “I’m going to court today. The question is innovator or pirate. The answer will be Internet freedom or censorship.”

He earlier told Radio New Zealand that the past year had been a difficult one.

“You do get forced into dark corners in your mind with a situation like this. You are not always positive because of the sheer power that is opposing you, two governments, Hollywood, the recording industry and all they want is to crush me and I am just one guy, so sometimes the pressure can get to you but I am still here.”

If extradited and found guilty in the US, the four men could face decades behind bars.

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