A court in Poland has ruled that the law forbids the extradition of Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski to the U.S., where he pleaded guilty nearly four decades ago to having sex with a minor.
"I can breathe now with relief," Polanski told reporters in Krakow, where the case was heard.
"I pleaded guilty. I went to prison. I have done my penalty. The case is closed," said the 83-year old director, who appeared thin and exhausted.
The decision Friday by a judge in Krakow could close the case in Polanski's favor, providing the U.S. 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.
Polanski's attorneys argued Friday that the U.S. request has legal flaws and said the filmmaker already served a prison term under a deal with a Los Angeles judge.
"This is not about justice or the interest of the victim," attorney Jan Olszewski said.
The director pleaded guilty in 1977 to one count of statutory rape for having sex with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles. He was ordered to undergo a psychiatric study at a state prison, where he served 42 days.
Lawyers have said they understood from a private conversation with the judge that the time in prison would bePolanski's punishment, but they said the judge later suggested Polanski would go back to prison, at which point he fled to France.
The verdict will be subject to appeal within seven days. If the judge rules that Poland can extradite Polanski, that's unlikely to happen immediately. He could go to France, where he lives, or to Switzerland, which in 2010 refused to extradite him.
If the ruling doesn't happen Friday or if there is an appeal, Polanski is more likely to face extradition, because the new Law and Justice party government to be installed in November is unsympathetic toward him.
Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said before the elections that there was talk in the media suggesting Polanski "should not be made responsible for his deeds because he is an outstanding, world-famous filmmaker."
"We will totally reject this attitude," Kaczynski said.
Until now, the public opinion in Poland, Polanski's childhood country, has been mostly in favor of the director considered a celebrity here. 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 is avoiding extradition by traveling between only France, Poland and Switzerland.