Kim Dotcom’s US extradition hearing began Monday in typically flamboyant style, with the internet entrepreneur bringing his own black leather armchair into the Auckland courtroom with him.
Dotcom said he had been granted permission by the court to bring the chair to sit in because he had back problems.
The hearing in the Auckland District Court has been postponed 10 times since Dotcom was arrested in 2012 on copyright charges related to his former online storage and file-sharing website Megaupload.
Dotcom sat in the rear of the courtroom with co-defendant Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk. Their colleague, Finn Batato, who is defending himself, sat with defence lawyers.
The Auckland District Court hearing is being held to decide whether the four men 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.
Defence lawyers requested that their applications to further delay the court proceedings be heard before the extradition hearing gets underway.
Lawyer Christine Gordon, acting for the Crown on behalf of the US government, argued that the applications from the defence could be dealt with as part of the main hearing or at trial in the US if it went ahead.
But Grant Illingworth, the lawyer for Ortmann and van der Kolk, said if the applications were not considered it would undermine confidence in the justice system.
“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.”
Dotcom, who arrived at the court in his black Mercedes SUV with personalised KIM.COM licence plate, was active on Twitter before the hearing started, saying, “I’m going to court today. The question is innovator or pirate. The answer will be internet freedom or censorship.”
He had earlier told Radio New Zealand that the past year had been a difficult one for him.
“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.