Polish court puts off Polanski decision

A Polish court has delayed a decision on whether to extradite Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski to the United States where he faces sentencing for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl.

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“The judge did not specify the date of the next hearing. He expects to set it for April,” court spokeswoman Beata Gorszczyk told reporters after a nine-hour closed door hearing.

The 81-year-old fugitive, dressed in a suit and tie, for his part told reporters he was “tired” at a press conference that began late because he ducked out to take a call from his wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner.

“It was exhausting. And in a sense pretty painful. Because I had to return to things that I’d prefer forget,” the dual French-Polish citizen said alongside his lawyers.

The United States filed the extradition request in January. Polanski has said he doubts it will be honoured but added that he will comply with the legal proceedings in Poland, where he will begin shooting a new film this year.

“I trust the Polish justice system. I hope everything will go well,” he told private Polish television station TVN24 in January.

Judge Dariusz Mazur said earlier on Wednesday that Polanski’s lawyers had petitioned the court to consider evidence from a 2009 case in Switzerland that saw him released after nine months under house arrest after a similar US extradition demand.

Polish prosecutors argue there are legal grounds for the extradition to go ahead, despite a statute of limitations on child sex crimes under Polish law.

If the Krakow court clears the extradition, Poland’s justice ministry will still have to take the final decision.

The latest extradition bid comes months after the United States tried to have Polanski arrested for sex offences when he travelled to Warsaw for the opening of a Jewish museum in October.

Polanski, who became a French citizen in 1976 after moving to France from Poland, said he would begin shooting a new film in Warsaw in July.

The movie will be about France’s Dreyfus Affair, the case of an army captain wrongly convicted in 1894 of espionage and treason. His ordeal has become a symbol of injustice and anti-Semitism.

The director of The Pianist, Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby was accused of raping Samantha Geimer, who was then 13, after a photo shoot in Los Angeles in 1977 when he was 43.

He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, avoiding a trial, but then fled the country fearing a hefty sentence.

US officials have regularly pressed for his extradition, but to no avail.