Polish prosecutors said last November that they would not challenge a judge’s decision to reject a U.S. request to extradite director Roman Polanski. The decades-old case could be reignited, however, with Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro telling Polish radio today that he will appeal the 2015 court decision.
Ziobro has been a vocal critic of the court’s October decree, citing Polanski’s celebrity status. “I’ve decided to file an appeal in the supreme court against the ruling,” he told state radio today. “If he was just a regular guy, a teacher, doctor, plumber, painter, then I’m sure he’d have been deported from any country to the U.S. a long time ago,” he said, according to Reuters.
Poland has a new, staunchly conservative government wherein the posts of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General have been merged, giving it more direct control over prosecution, Reuters notes.
Speaking to private broadcaster TVN24, Polanski’s lawyer Jan Olszewski called Ziobro’s decision unsurprising. “I guarantee that if there were no factual arguments on our side, Polanski’s (celebrity) status itself would not protect him from extradition.”
The case began with the now 82-year-old Oscar-winning director’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 States 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.