The judge who was to have overseen the extradition trial of controversial file-sharing mogul Kim Dotcom has stepped down after comments he made describing the US as "the enemy" came to light.
Judge David Harvey had been expected to handle Kim Dotcom's extradition hearing next year. But he stepped down after describing the US as the "enemy" while discussing copyright law at a conference last week, according to The New Zealand Herald.
"He recognises 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," chief judge Jan-Marie Doogue is quoted as saying.
Judge Harvey reportedly made the comment at the NetHui internet conference in Auckland on 12 July while participating in a discussion about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty - a proposed agreement pertaining to intellectual rights that involves numerous countries including the US.
Prior to stepping down, Harvey had ruled in Dotcom's favour on several occasions, controversially restoring the Megaupload founder's internet access and ordering the US to hand over evidence gathered against the accused.
The news could come as a blow to Dotcom who has been campaigning for a speedy resolution to his extradition hearing, having accused FBI officials of using underhand stall tactics to cause further damage to his business.
Earlier in July, Dotcom offered to fly to the US to clear his name, after New Zealand courts ruled to delay his extradition hearing until 2013.
The delay is officially intended to allow the New Zealand courts to conclude two judicial reviews. The reviews are investigating the use of illegal search warrants and evidence disclosure during the FBI led seizure of Dotcom's assets.
US authorities have accused Dotcom of being the kingpin of an internet piracy ring. Prosecutors have estimated the ring earned $175m by providing access to illegally copied music, movies and other copyrighted content before being shut down.
Dotcom's lawyers have contested the charges maintaining that the company only offered online storage. The FBI is currently seeking the extradition of several alleged copyright infringers including British citizen Richard O'Dwyer.
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