A Polish court on Friday rejected a US request to extradite film-maker Roman Polanski over a 1977 child sex conviction, saying his extradition was inadmissible because the US judiciary had repeatedly violated his rights.
The case of the Oscar-winning director, now 82, who holds Polish and French citizenship, remains an international cause celebre nearly four decades after the crime, with some demanding harsh punishment and others urging to let the case go.
“(Roman Polanski’s) extradition is inadmissible”, judge Dariusz Mazur told a sitting at the district court in the southern city of Krakow.
The decision is not legally binding, as prosecutors can now appeal the ruling. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles.
Polanski served 42 days in jail after a plea bargain. He fled the United States the following year to Britain and then to France, believing the judge hearing his case could overrule the deal and put him in jail for years.
In 2009, he was arrested in Zurich on a US warrant and placed under house arrest. He was freed in 2010 after Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him.
The United States requested Polanski’s extradition from Poland after he made a high-profile appearance in Warsaw in 2014. The filmmaker lives in Paris but he also has an apartment in Krakow, southern Poland.
Polanski was due to hold a news conference in Krakow later on Friday.
Since fleeing the United States, Polanski won an Oscar for best director for The Pianist. He is in Poland for the shooting of a new film on the Dreyfus affair based on a novel by Robert Harris.
But the Polish judge Mazur said Polanski’s right for fair trial and right of defence were “grossly and repeatedly violated” over the years by several US judges and prosecutors, including when the first bargain deal was annulled.
He said it was clear Polanski was guilty and deserved to be punished. But he said the time the Polish-born director had his freedoms restricted in various proceedings amounted to about a year-long jail term, way more than had been agreed under the first plea bargain.
The judge said extraditing Polanski would lead to him being held in harsh conditions for weeks or months in the United States while his case was being processed and would violate his human rights, potentially putting Poland at odds with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
He said the defendant’s rights were often curtailed and that he was sometimes “blackmailed” by the US judiciary, that the judges failed to live up to standards of judicial independence and that Polanski has already been punished.
Polanski’s US-based lawyer Chad Hummel on Friday declined to comment on the Polish decision and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which has long sought to bring the film maker to justice, could not immediately be reached.
The State Department had no immediate comment.
Samantha Geimer, the victim in the case, has long made clear she believes Polanski’s long exile has been punishment enough. Geimer, now in her 50s and living in Hawaii, said in a series of posts on her Facebook page ahead of the Polish ruling that Los Angeles prosecutors should abandon their efforts.
“The message is they will use a teenage rape victim until their dying breath to get some PR, and justice is NOT something they seek for victims If they were smart, they’d stop trying to bring him back,” she wrote.