The judge hearing Kim Dotcom's extradition case has asked if sending the internet mogul to stand trial in the US without funding would be like returning a refugee to the country they've fled.
Mr Dotcom and three other men face extradition on copyright, racketeering and money-laundering charges related to their Megaupload website.
The court is currently hearing a stay application from the men to pause or even halt the extradition process altogether.
They say a US restraining order is preventing them from using New Zealand funds to pay for international legal and technical advice to help defend the extradition attempt.
Judge Nevin Dawson asked defence lawyer Ron Mansfield whether that order would also leave his client without funding for a defence, if he did stand trial in the US.
Mr Mansfield said it would, unless a new, unrestrained source of funding could be found.
Judge Dawson asked whether that was part of Mr Mansfield's argument.
"We don't send refugees back to countries if they're going to be subjected to various types of punishment... and I'm wondering if there's any parallel here," he said.
The defence team had not included that argument in their submissions but would consider it overnight, Mr Mansfield said.
US lawyer working for free
Mr Mansfield also revealed that Mr Dotcom's US lawyer, Ira Rothken, who had been involved with the case from its earliest days, was working unpaid.
Mr Rothken, who has been attending the extradition hearing, had funded his own flights to New Zealand and was covering his own expenses while he was here, Mr Mansfield said.
Mr Dotcom had been able to find just one expert, Harvard University professor Lawrence Lessig, who was willing or able to act in an unpaid capacity.
Even if more expert witnesses could be found, it was difficult to work out how their travel and accommodation costs could be covered without breaching the US restraining order, Mr Mansfield said.