WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland will not extradite Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski to the U.S. in an almost 40-year-old case after prosecutors declined to challenge a court ruling against the extradition request.
Prosecutors in Krakow, who had sought the extradition on behalf of the U.S., said Friday they found the court's refusal of extradition to be "right" and said they found no grounds to appeal it.
A lawyer for Polanski, Jan Olszewski, told The Associated Press that Polanski's reaction was of "great relief" and "satisfaction" that the irregularities in the U.S. procedure have been exposed. Polanski spoke to his lawyer over the phone from Paris, where he lives with his family.
The case was heard in Krakow, where Polanski has residence in Poland.
The decision by the prosecutors closes the case in Poland and means Polanski, 82, is free to reside and work in Poland, where he grew up and studied filmmaking, and where he is preparing to make a new movie. Preparations for the movie were stalled by the arrest and extradition requests that the U.S. made last year. In 2011, Switzerland rejected a U.S. request to extradite Polanski.
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.
Krakow prosecutors shared the court's opinion that Polanski had served his punishment and did not need to face a U.S. court again.
A judge in Krakow ruled last month that Polanski's extradition is inadmissible, arguing that the U.S. trial was not fair and that Polanski would not face fair treatment there, something that violate Europe's convention on human rights.
The Krakow prosecutors said in a statement they agreed with the court's reasoning.
Among the irregularities, the court and the prosecutors cited a violation of Polanski's right to defend himself decades ago in the United States, "unethical" discussions between the judge and only one side in the case without all parties involved, informal instructions to the judges, intentional destruction of some of the documents in the case and loss of some others and excessive sensitivity of the judges to criticism in the media.
Public opinion is in Polanski's favor in Poland, where his artistic output is deeply admired and where he spent his World War II childhood and went into filmmaking. His mother died in 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.
Olszewski and another lawyer for Polanski, Jerzy Stachowicz, said they will try to make the Polish court's verdict applicable in all of the 26 countries belonging to the Schengen passport-free travel zone. But he didn't give details of that plan.
Polanski won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film "The Pianist" that he filmed in Warsaw and was nominated for 1974's "Chinatown" and 1979's "Tess."
This story has been corrected to show that Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse, not statutory rape.