KRAKOW, POLAND • A judge in Poland last Friday rejected a request by the United States for the extradition of the film-maker Roman Polanski, who is wanted over a 1977 conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
At a hearing in Krakow, Judge Dariusz Mazur ruled that turning over Polanski would be an "obviously unlawful" deprivation of liberty and that California would be unlikely to provide humane living conditions for the film-maker, 82.
"I'm very happy that the case is ending," Polanski said at a news conference in Krakow after the ruling, the latest development in a 38-year trans-Atlantic legal controversy. "This has been a tremendous burden on me and my family."
Polanski, a citizen of France and Poland, has been working on a film in Poland about Alfred Dreyfus, a French army captain who was wrongly convicted of spying for Germany in 1894.
Over the years, Los Angeles prosecutors and judges have said he must return to the US to face sentencing. His lawyers have said improprieties by the trial judge and others violated his legal rights.
Judge Mazur sided with Polanski's lawyers. "I'm terrified by the statements of some of my colleagues in the US," he said, citing a report last year that a Los Angeles judge had planned to have Polanski "cool his heels in jail" if he returned to the US by delaying a ruling on a proposed deal under which the judge would limit his sentence to 42 days served by the film-maker from 1977 to 1978.
"If I were to behave like them, I'd lose the respect of all my subordinates here," Judge Mazur said. "I do not find any logical, rational explanation as to why the US is pursuing the extradition."
This may not be the final step in the Polish case. Prosecutors could appeal. "We will wait until we get the full decision in writing before deciding whether to appeal," regional prosecutor Danuta Bieniarz said.
Prosecutor Bieniarz told Judge Mazur: "In our opinion, there are no legal grounds to stop the extradition. The case has not expired under American law and we do not think that the extradition is unlawful, on the basis of Polish law. There is no proof that Polanski will be treated inhumanely in the United States."
NEW YORK TIMES