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Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues on Monday took their fight against being extradited to the U.S. to New Zealand’s top court.

The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the seven-year-old case after Dotcom and the others lost several previous court rulings.

But even if the men lose their latest appeal, they have legal options which could keep their case alive in the New Zealand court system and delay any extradition for several more years.

U.S. authorities in 2012 shut down Dotcom’s file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering. If found guilty, the men could face decades in prison.

Megaupload was once one of the internet’s most popular sites. U.S. prosecutors say it raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies.

Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said in an interview that if anyone did something illegal in relation to Megaupload, it was the users.

“This case is all about trying to hold Megaupload and Kim Dotcom and the others responsible for the acts of users,” Rothken said. “And we’re saying you can’t do that. You can’t do that in the United States and you can’t do that in New Zealand.”

The Supreme Court has scheduled five days to hear the appeal. After that, it could take them several months to issue their decision.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the earlier court rulings and find the men are eligible for extradition, then New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little would need to make the final decision on whether the extraditions should proceed. And Little’s decision could also be appealed in the courts.

Dotcom, who was arrested in 2012 during a dramatic police raid on his mansion and incarcerated for a month, was released on bail more than seven years ago.

In addition to Dotcom, who founded Megaupload and was its biggest shareholder, the U.S. is also seeking to extradite former Megaupload officers Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato. The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court in eastern Virginia.

Dotcom did not attend Monday’s hearing, although the other three men did. Rothken said Dotcom was at his home in Queenstown and was being kept informed of developments.



A longtime Utah judge has been suspended without pay for six months after making critical comments online and in court about President Donald Trump, including a post bashing his “inability to govern and political incompetence.”

Judge Michael Kwan’s posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in 2016-2017 violated the judicial code of conduct and diminished “the reputation of our entire judiciary,” wrote Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce in an opinion posted Wednesday.

Kwan’s Facebook account was private but could have been shared by friends, Pearce wrote.

“Judge Kwan’s behavior denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified, and courteous jurist who takes no advantage of the office in which he serves,” Pearce said.

Kwan has been a justice court judge in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville since 1998. He deals with misdemeanor cases, violations of ordinances and small claims.

He was first appointed by elected city officials to a six-year term and was retained in the position by voters.

Kwan argued the suspension was inappropriate and an unlawful attempt to regulate his constitutionally protected speech, Pearce wrote in the opinion.

Kwan’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said the judge is disappointed with the severity of the suspension but accepted that he would get some reprimand.

Like many people after the 2016 election, Kwan felt strongly about the results and said some things “in haste,” Skordas said.

He knows judges are held to a higher standard and must be careful, the lawyer said.

“He certainly regrets making those statements and is committed to not doing anything like that again,” Skordas said.

It’s unknown what Kwan’s political affiliation is because he chooses to keep his voter registration private, an option available to any state voter, said Justin Lee, Utah director of elections.

Skordas said he doesn’t know Kwan’s political party but noted the judge has been reprimanded previously during his career for comments critical of politicians from both major parties.

Pearce referred to those past reprimands while justifying the severity of the suspension.



A Russian court on Friday extended the arrest for a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage, who complained in court about abuse in custody.

Paul Whelan was arrested at the end of December in a hotel room in the Russian capital of Moscow where he was attending a wedding. He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan denies the charges of spying for the U.S. that his lawyers said stem from a sting operation. Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive that had classified information on it that he didn’t know about.

The court ruled Friday to keep the Michigan resident, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, behind bars for three more months.

Whelan told reporters in court that he has been threatened and subjected to “abuses and harassment” in prison.

“I haven’t had a shower in two weeks. I can’t use a barber, I have to cut my own hair,” a visibly agitated Whelan said from the defendant’s dock. “This is typical prisoner of war isolation technique. They’re trying to run me down so that I will talk to them.”

Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Friday that they are disappointed with the ruling, arguing there is “no evidence of any wrongdoing.”

“The mature, civilized course would be to let Paul go home to his elderly parents, who are wondering if they’ll see their son alive again,” Kalan said.

Rights activist Eva Merkachova, who is authorized to visit Moscow prisons, told the RIA Novosti news agency on Friday that the prison administration at the Lefortovo detention center where Whelan is being kept did not let her speak to the American because they were speaking English.

She said she and another activist were told by a prison guard that they can only speak Russian on the premises and that Lefortovo refused to let in a certified translator.



Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has been re-elected to a third, two-year term leading the court.

The court announced her re-election by fellow justices Tuesday. The result was public, but the vote was done in secret and the breakdown was not announced.

Roggensack replaced Justice Shirley Abrahamson as chief justice in 2015 after voters approved a constitutional amendment giving justices the power to elect the chief justice. Prior to that it had automatically gone to the longest-serving member, who is Abrahamson.

Roggensack is one of the four majority conservative justices. Abrahamson is one of three minority liberal members.

Roggensack says in a statement that she is honored to continue serving as chief justice. She has been on the Supreme Court since 2003.

The chief justice also serves as the administrative head of Wisconsin's judicial system.



Slovakia's Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a request by the country's prosecutor general to ban a far-right party that has 14 seats in the country's parliament.

In his request filed two years ago, Jaromir Ciznar said the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia is an extremist group whose activities violate the country's constitution and its goal is to destroy the country's democratic system.

But the court ruled the prosecutor general failed to provide enough evidence for the ban. The verdict is final.

"The ruling has clearly showed that our party is legitimate and democratic," party chairman Marian Kotleba said on Monday. He said it was "a political trial."

The prosecutor's office didn't immediately comment. Kotleba's supporters applauded in the court room while the opponents unveiled a banner in front of the court that read "Stop Fascism."

The party openly admires the Nazi puppet state that the country was during World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in deprived areas, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union.

If granted, it would have been the first ban on a parliamentary party.

There is a precedent, though. In 2006, the same court banned a predecessor of People's Party, the neo-Nazi Slovak Togetherness-National Party, also led by Kotleba.


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