Ending a years-long back-and-forth, Poland’s supreme court today upheld an earlier verdict that Roman Polanski cannot be extradited to the U.S. over a 1977 child sex conviction. In May this year, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said he would appeal a 2015 Polish court decision which had already rejected a request to return the Oscar-winning director to the States. At the time of that verdict, prosecutors had said they would not challenge the court’s ruling, but Ziobro was a vocal critic of the decree, citing Polanski’s celebrity status.
Poland’s staunchly conservative government merged the posts of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General earlier this year, opening an avenue to request an annulment of the lower court’s ruling. Ziobro then filed for the annulment.
The supreme court today deemed the request “groundless,” Reuters reports. The decision brings a definitive end to the case in Poland. “We are very happy that the case is finally over,” one of Polanski’s lawyers, Jan Olszewski, told the news agency. His lawyers also said the filmmaker has been deeply affected by the case, which prevented him attending the funeral of another Oscar-winning Polish film director, Andrzej Wajda, in October.
The case began with the now 83-year-old filmmaker’s 1977 conviction on five charges stemming from having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski, 43 at the time, cut a plea deal and served 42 days in prison but fled the U.S. on the eve of sentencing when it appeared the judge in the case had moved the legal goalposts. The Chinatown and Pianist director has been a fugitive from American justice ever since.
Polanski holds dual citizenship in Poland and France. While French law prohibits extradition of its citizens, Polish law does not. Polanski lives in Paris but also has an apartment in Krakow. Last year’s attempts to have him extradited were sparked in October 2014, when U.S. officials asked Polish prosecutors to question the director while he was in the country. He was eventually released, but U.S. authorities filed a formal extradition request in January 2015 in Poland where Polanski was working on a film about the Dreyfus Affair.
Previously, in 2009, Polanski was placed under house arrest in Switzerland while a similar extradition request was examined. He was released after nine months.
Samantha Geimer, the victim, has repeatedly said she believes Polanski’s exile has been punishment enough. But the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has insisted he is subject to arrest in the United States.
“We hope that this ruling becomes a stimulus for the American side to perhaps use existing legal opportunities to issue a ruling in absentia and consider the penalty served,” Olszewski said.