Filmmaker Roman Polanski appeared in court in Poland yesterday for a hearing concerning a US request for his extradition on charges of sex with a minor, a case that has haunted him since 1977.
Judge Dariusz Mazur was not expected to make a ruling and scheduled another hearing, giving him time to study documents that arrived this week from Switzerland, which in 2010 refused to extradite Mr Polanski. “The proceeding will not be finished today,” Mr Mazur said.
The next hearing could be in April or sooner, according to court spokeswoman Grazyna Rokita.
Under Polish law, if the court rules in favour of the extradition request, it will be passed on to the country’s justice minister, who will make the final decision on whether to allow Mr Polanski to be taken to the US.
Mr Polanski’s lawyer said the director wants to clarify his status before he begins filming in Poland this summer.
The Oscar-winning director of films including Tess, The Pianist, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, entered the court in Krakow with his two Polish lawyers. The hearing began at 9am and on the attorneys’ request, the court banned media from the hearing.
Mr Polanski, 81, is in Poland preparing to make a movie about Alfred Dreyfus, the 19th century French army officer wrongly accused of spying.
Prosecutors in Mr Polanski’s childhood city of Krakow, where he has an apartment, have refused a US request to arrest him, but have said there are no legal obstacles to his extradition and have asked the court to make a ruling.
If the judge refuses to hand Mr Polanski over, the case is closed. If he allows the extradition, the final decision will belong to the justice minister.
Mr Polanski is a celebrity in Poland, where many politicians have indicated reluctance to hand him over, arguing he has already paid a heavy price and repented for what he did.
An Interpol warrant for Mr Polanski’s arrest is in effect in 188 countries.
He avoids extradition by travelling only between France, Poland and Switzerland – he has French and Polish passports.
Last year, Mr Polanski was questioned by prosecutors in Poland, acting on a US request. He agreed to comply with the Polish justice system.
The director, who grew up in Poland and began his career there, is regarded as one of the country’s greatest living artists.
He survived the Second World War in the Krakow ghetto, though his mother was murdered at Auschwitz.
In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer during a photoshoot in Los Angeles.
He served 42 days in jail as part of a plea bargain but fled the US on the eve of his sentencing the following year.
In 2013, Ms Geimer described in graphic detail for the first time what allegedly happened on the day of the attack at Jack Nicholson’s LA home.
In her book, The Girl, she wrote about how Mr Polanski told her mother he wanted to take pictures of the teenager for French Vogue but would not allow her to accompany her daughter.
Describing the sexual assault, Ms Geimer revealed that Mr Polanski first plied her with Champagne, taking pictures of her in the Jacuzzi wearing just her underwear, before giving her a sleeping pill.
During the screening of a documentary of his life at the Zurich Film Festival in 2011, Mr Polanski said Ms Geimer was a “double victim” after she was caught up in the media glare of his arrest in 2009.
In 1969, Mr Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by members of the Manson Family cult while staying at Polanski’s Benedict Canyon home above Los Angeles.
Following her death, Mr Polanski returned to Europe and spent much of his time in Paris and Gstaad, but did not direct another film until 1971’s Macbeth, in England.
The following year he went to Italy to make What? and subsequently spent the next five years living near Rome.
However, he travelled to Hollywood to direct Chinatown in 1974. The film, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.