I was shocked when I heard Kim Dotcom et al were in custody and Megaupload had been shut down. When I realised it was the NZ police who had made the arrest, I was outraged.
My standard reaction was to find out as much as possible about the circumstances. During my search I found out some details about their court appearance that afternoon. By the time they were due to appear I decided to drive over to Albany and exercise my right to watch from the public gallery. The only other times I’d been in a court was voting (at Auckland High Court) and jury service (at Auckland District Court) where I was never selected on a jury. So I walked into the building not knowing where to go or who to talk to, but quickly spotted a bunch of cameras outside one of the courtrooms. A couple of reporters from TVNZ explained to me what was going on and that I could just walk into court and sit down.
There were about thirty seats in the gallery, almost all of them were occupied. There were quite a few journalists and then a bunch of supporters who all seemed to know the accused. Two teary eyed woman in the front row appeared to be partners of Dotcom and van der Kolk. I was sitting directly behind them and caught a wink (from Dotcom) and a blown kiss (from van der Kolk) which were no doubt intended in their direction. There were also a few Americans who we speculated to be musicians. I tried to strike up a conversation with a couple of them, and found out later that one of the guys, known as Printz Board, is part of The Black Eyed Peas. This is him in the Mega Uploads song:
The actual hearing was surreal. The Judge was clearly quite irritated by all the people in his courtroom, and took his frustration out on the press. He told them to stop taking photos before he’d even allowed them to start. (In today’s session, which I did not attend, he ordered press out of the public gallery.) I imagine it would be nerve-wracking for a district court Judge to preside over such a high profile international case, but if he felt uncomfortable why didn’t he hand the case to someone more experienced? I still can’t work out why the expedition hearings are taking place at North Shore District rather than Auckland High Court. It’s one of many questions I’m planning on asking a lawyer friend when I get the chance.
The Judge, who took about an hour to arrive, put the bail hearing off until Monday because it was late in the afternoon. It seemed apparent to me at the time that his intention was to lock the four of them up over the weekend. Afterwards I learned Dotcom had a lavish birthday party planned for Saturday, and this was the reason for the police acting when they did. Unfortunately for the NZ police by acting so hastily the only managed to arrest 4/7 accused. The others are apparently in Europe, where the courts likely won’t extradite them to the USA.
I don’t think Kim Dotcom is a “good” person – he’s made millions of dollars through questionable business practice – however he deserves more respect than he’s been given. The NZ government accepted $10Mil from him to apply for residency so it’s unfair for NZ authorities to treat him this way while he’s still innocent (until proven otherwise…). We’re talking about New Zealand police arresting a German/ Finnish citizen who is accused of breaking American laws in Hong Kong.
Without coming across as a hacktivist sympathiser may I also remind you that the British police are still holding an Australian citizen who was arrested [update] for alleged sexual molestation in Sweden. When it’s widely believed the real reason is the USA was trying to mount a case for rendition on national security grounds. [/update] Julian Assange has been under house arrest for over a year. Goes to show there’s nowhere for netizens to hide from American law.
It’s unlikely I’ll find the time to stalk any of the other Megaupload court dates, however if you’re interested in the case I suggest you read some of these articles: