The New Zealand judge handling the extradition case of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has dramatically stepped down from the role. Speaking at the NetHui conference last week, Judge David Harvey had voiced his feelings on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, describing the United States as “the enemy”. Accepting that the comments could lead people to question his impartiality in the case, Harvey has surrendered his role.
For the greater part, Kim Dotcom and his co-defendants will have been pretty happy with Judge David Harvey, the man overlooking their increasingly controversial extradition case.
Things had been going well, with the Judge ruling favorably towards the Megaupload founder and his friends on a number of occasions, but last week he apparently overstepped the mark.
It happened during the NetHui conference after the launch of “Fair Deal”, a campaign opposing amendments to New Zealand copyright law that could become part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In common with ACTA that went before it, TPP negotiations are being held in secret and being used by the U.S. entertainment industries to push for tougher copyright law.
One of issues surrounds the circumvention of DVD region codes which currently allows New Zealanders to watch DVDs from other regions without committing an offense. TPP seeks to remove that freedom, and Judge Harvey made it clear he wasn’t happy with that.
“Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited… if you do you will be a criminal – that’s what will happen,” Judge Harvey said, adding:
“..we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S.”
Quickly, NZHearld quoted Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge describing the comment as potentially “unhelpful” but clearly the pressure has been building since.
This morning, Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue announced that Judge Harvey had decided to step down from the case over the comments.
“He recognizes that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case,” she said.
Over the past few months, Judge Harvey has ruled several times in favor of Dotcom and his co-defendants.
Back in April, he praised Dotcom and his associates on their “commendable” behavior, going on to reinstate Dotcom’s Internet access, his swimming sessions, and visits to a recording studio to finish his album.
He went on to grant Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato permission to travel to Dotcom’s home once a week for a maximum of six hours so that they could work on their defense.
And in May and against U.S. wishes, Judge Harvey ordered the disclosure of all documents related to crimes the “Megaupload conspirators” had allegedly participated in.
The extradition case, scheduled for 2013, will now be heard by Judge Nevin Dawson.