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Supreme court ruling; Roman Polanski is no longer facing extradition from Poland

Roman Polanski will now not be extradited from Poland to the United States if he chooses to return to his homeland, ruled the Polish Supreme Court on the 6th December 2016. The Supreme Court choose to uphold the decision of the lower court and side with Polanski’s top extradition lawyers.

The three judges in the Supreme Court handed down their verdict, this removed the uncertainty that had been hanging over Polanski of whether he could return to Poland. The extradition bid from the United States began over a year ago. Polanski is now 83 years old. He is an Oscar winner and the US want to him returned to the United States from his country of birth, Poland.

Polanski fled from the United States in 1978 after a conviction against him for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The American Justice officials have been pursuing him ever since. Polanski is currently residing in France, however he has been travelling to Poland to work on a new film.

Polanski was not in court on Tuesday the 6th of December 2016 when the judgement was handed down. Polanski’s top extradition lawyer has said that they are relieved at this ruling. He has stated that as of today the case is closed in Poland. However, they are not naïve enough to believe the matter is closed if he travels elsewhere.

The extradition request was rejected by a lower court in Krakow, Poland in 2015. After the courts rejection of the request Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish Justice Minister, appealed the case. Polanski’s top extradition lawyer argued that the time that Polanski had spent in jail, in custody or under house arrest exceeded the original sentence he had been given. He also went on to argue that Polanski would not receive a fair trial in the United States.

The Justice minister on the other hand argued the although Polanski is a revered figure in Poland, his homeland, he should be treated differently to anyone else who has been convicted of such a crime. He went on to argue that he should face justice for that crime like every other convict has.

The Ruling by the Supreme Court on Tuesday means that Poland has joined France and Switzerland as a country where Polanski is legally allowed to live and work in their countries without risk of extradition. France does not have a formal extradition treaty with the United States. The United States have requested the extradition of Polanski from Switzerland but this was refused also.

The United States made their formal extradition request for Polanski’s extradition in 2014. Polanski had made a high-profile public appearance in Warsaw which drew the attention of the United States authorities. On the first hearing of the case in October of 2015, the request was rejected. Although the request was rejected, Poland’s new conservative government merged the posts of the prosecutor general and justice minister, this then opened the way to request an annulment of the decision that the lower court had given in 2015.

Ziobro, the Prosecutor General had filed for the annulment of the verdict at the beginning of 2016. His argument being that Polanski’s celebrity status had helped him escape facing his crime and serving a prison status, the justice that Ziobro believed Polanski deserved.

The Supreme Court however ruled that the annulment request was made without sufficient grounds. In a statement, after the Supreme Court’s decision, Ziobro held that he both accepted and respected the decision of the court.

Polanski’s top extradition lawyers have said that the filmmaker has been affected deeply by the case over the past year. It has prevented him from attending the funeral of Andrzej Wajda in October of 2016. Wajda was also an award winning Polish film director and a friend of Polanski’s.

The case of Polanski remains active after almost four decades and has accredited him with a semi-celebrity status. In 1977 Polanski pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a then thirteen-year-old. The girl did not automatically think the situation was rape due to it not being a violent incident. After serving 42 days in the American jail he was given a plea deal. Polanski then fled the United States because he feared a longer sentence if the plea deal was overruled by a senior judge.

In 2009, Polanski was arrested whilst he was visiting his second home in Zurich, Switzerland. The arrest by the Swiss authorities was on an arrest warrant issued from the United States. He was the placed under house arrest. After being on house arrest for almost a year Polanski was released. It was announced in 2010 that the Swiss authorities had decided they would not be extraditing Polanski to the United States. 

Samantha Geimer was the victim in the case. She has spoken out to say Polanski’s exile from the United States is punishment enough and there is no need to carry on with the extradition requests. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office have continued to state that Polanski is a fugitive and subject to arrest if he returns to the United States.

An agreement had been reached between Polanski and Geimer’s family but at the time of trial the judge stated that Polanski could face 50 years in prison. On the news Polanski fled the country, moving first to England and then later to France. Geimer states that his fleeing and the constant media attention is what has unfortunately continued to link the two together. In 2009 Polanski emailed Geimer apologizing for the affect he had on her life. Whilst not specifically admitting to any acts, Geimer held it was an improvement on the constant flat denials that he had continued from the past decades.

Polanski’s top extradition lawyers have stated that they hope that the ruling becomes a starting point for the American authorities to use existing legal precedent to issue a ruling in absentia and consider the sentence served.