Polanski freed after Poles question him on US sex case

AFP| Updated: Oct 30, 2014, 18:32 PM IST

Film director Roman Polanski was questioned by Polish prosecutors Thursday on a US arrest warrant for sex offences, but allowed to walk free.

The maker of "The Pianist" and "Chinatown" has been sought by the American police since 1978 after he fled the country before he could be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Prosecutors in Krakow, southern Poland, released him after questioning, but justice authorities in Warsaw did not rule out extraditing him to the US.

"Roman Polanski said he would comply with all requests made by prosecutors in this case and provided his address. Prosecutors therefore decided not to arrest him in connection with a possible US extradition request," Polish justice ministry spokesman Mateusz Martyniuk told AFP on Thursday.

The United States attempted to have him arrested for sex offences when he travelled to Warsaw for the opening of a Jewish museum, the Polish government confirmed Thursday.

The US asked the Polish prosector general to hold the Polish-born Polanski, 81, who also has French nationality, until he could be extradited.

Martyniuk however told AFP Polanski`s extradition was still possible because "the statute of limitations does not apply to US requests".

In 2010, the Polish prosecutor general said Polanski could not be extradited because under Polish law too much time had passed since the offences.Martyniuk said that since the US had not yet forwarded an extradition request, Polanski "is a free citizen and is free to travel".

Los Angeles police charged Polanski with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy, in 1977 before he accepted a plea deal. But he absconded on the eve of sentencing the following year fearing that the judge planned to go back on the bargain.

Police said he got the girl to pose for photos in actor Jack Nicholson`s Hollywood home after telling her mother, a model and actress, that they were for French Vogue. The teenager told a grand jury that Polanski plied her with champagne and drugs, and then had sex with her.

The director was in the southern Polish city of Krakow Thursday, and as it stands would be able to return to France, where he is directing a stage show called the "The Vampires` Ball".

Polanski was arrested in 2009 in Zurich when he travelled to Switzerland to pick up a prize at a film festival after the United States made a similar request.

But he was eventually allowed to return to France after an extradition bid failed. 

Last year his victim, Samantha Geimer, now 51, published her account of what happened, "The Girl: A Life Lived in the Shadow of Roman Polanski", saying it was time she took "back ownership of my own story".

Now a mother of three, Geimer said she harbours no hate for her attacker.

"My family never asked that Polanski be punished. We just wanted the legal machine to stop."

And Geimer repeated that she ultimately forgave Polanski, not for him, but for herself.

Polanski had previously made a private trip to Poland in 2011 but his visit this week, where he appeared on television at the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, could not be kept secret. 

Polanski has said he wants to shoot a film about the 19th century Dreyfus Affair on location in Poland on the condition he will not face extradition.