Poland’s justice minister has revived an effort to have filmmaker Roman Polanski extradited to the US, where he is wanted in a nearly 40-year-old case involving sex with a minor.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro’s office yesterday said he asked Poland’s Supreme Court to annul a ruling in October by a court in Krakow which found that Polish law forbids Polanski’s extradition. In November, prosecutors said they found no grounds to challenge the decision.
Ziobro took office late last year, after the ruling, as part of a new conservative government. The minister, who is also the country’s chief prosecutor, argues that celebrity status is shielding Oscar-winning director Polanski in Poland, where he grew up and which he often visits.
The Krakow court’s decision was at odds with a Polish and US extradition agreement, Ziobro’s office argued in a statement. It said “according to the extradition agreement, the defendant should be handed over to the US.”
The director pleaded guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles. In a deal with the judge, he served 42 days in prison, but then fled the US fearing the judge would have him imprisoned again. US officials have been seeking to bring Polanski back and put him before a court.
Last year, the Krakow judge ruling on the case found that Polanski served his punishment in confinement in the US, and later for ten months – partly under house arrest – in Switzerland in 2009-2010 when the US unsuccessfully sought his extradition there.
He argued US judges and prosecutors in the case violated legal procedures, broke the plea bargain in 1977, denied Polanski the right to proper defence and appeared biased.
Jan Olszewski, Polanski’s lawyer in Krakow, said he had contacted the director about Ziobro’s decision, which “we had been expecting”.
“The court’s verdict stands and Mr Polanski is a free man,” he said. “But I cannot exclude that this situation will affect his decisions as to visiting Poland.”
Paris-born Polanski, 83, has Polish and French citizenship. The filmmaker’s movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant in effect in 188 countries, but he has avoided extradition by travelling only between France, Poland and Switzerland. Ziobro’s move could now make Poland a risky destination for him.