Poland’s justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro on Tuesday revived an effort to have filmmaker Roman Polanski extradited to the U.S., where he is wanted in a nearly 40-year-old case involving sex with a minor.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro’s office 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-U.S. extradition agreement, Ziobro’s office argued in a statement. It said that, “according to the extradition agreement, the defendant should be handed over to the United States.”
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 U.S. fearing the judge would have him imprisoned again for much longer.
The U.S. has 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 U.S., and later for 10 months — partly under house arrest — in Switzerland in 2009-2010 when the U.S. unsuccessfully sought his extradition there.
He argued that U.S. judges and prosecutors in the case violated legal procedures, broke the plea bargain in 1977, denied Polanski the right to proper defense and appeared biased.
Jan Olszewski, Polanski’s lawyer in Krakow, where the filmmaker has an apartment, told The Associated Press 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. He lives in Paris but often visits Poland, where he is popular and is preparing to make a film.
Polanski’s artistic output is deeply admired in Poland, where he spent his World War II childhood and later went into filmmaking. His mother died at the Auschwitz death camp.
The filmmaker’s movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant in effect in 188 countries, but he has avoided extradition by traveling only between France, Poland and Switzerland, which in 2011 rejected a U.S. request to extradite Polanski. Ziobro’s move could now make Poland a risky destination for him.
Polanski won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film “The Pianist,” which he filmed in Warsaw, and was nominated for his 1970s movies “Chinatown” and “Tess.”