POLAND - USA

Poland rejects US request to extradite Roman Polanski

Kenzo Tribouillard, Janek Skarz | Polish director Roman Polanski (right) in Krakow on February 25, 2015 and Samantha Geimer, the victim in the 1970s sex conviction against Polanski

A Polish court has ruled against a US request to extradite film director Roman Polanski for having sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in the 1970s.

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The Oscar-winning director pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a minor during a photo shoot in Los Angeles, but fled the US ahead of sentencing.

The decision Friday by a judge in the city of Krakow could close the case in Polanski's favour, providing the US does not appeal it.

But an appeal - if successful - could make an extradition likely, because the new Law and Justice party government to be installed in November has indicated there will be no leniency for Polanski, 83, as it makes a point of applying laws strictly and equally to all.

The verdict will be subject to appeal within seven days.

Polanski, 83, was in Krakow on Friday but did not appear in court.

The trial judge heard from lawyers for Polanski and the US, which requested the extradition earlier this year.

Polanski's attorneys argued Friday that the US request has legal flaws and said the filmmaker already served a prison term under a deal with a Los Angeles judge. Polanski served 42 days in jail after a plea bargain at the time.

Legal battle

Lawyers have said they understood from a private conversation with the judge at the time that Polanski's punishment would be the 42 days. However, Polanski believed the judge would overrule the deal and put him in jail for years, at which point he fled the country.

Until now, the public opinion in Poland, Polanski's childhood country, has been mostly in favour of the director considered a celebrity there. He won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film "The Pianist" and was nominated for 1974's "Chinatown" and 1979's "Tess."

Polanski's movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant in effect in 188 countries, but he has been avoiding extradition by travelling between only France, Poland and Switzerland.

In 2009, he was arrested in Zurich on a US warrant and placed under house arrest. He was freed in 2010 after Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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