Polanski accuses Academy of ‘harassment’ over expulsion: lawyer

Director Roman Polanski is wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977
AFP

Warsaw (AFP) – Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski on Friday accused the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of harassment after it expelled him along with actor Bill Cosby in light of historic sexual assault cases.

Polanski, who lives in France, is wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

The veteran 84-year-old director of “Rosemary’s Baby” has for years been seeking to negotiate a deal in the case with US authorities.

The board of governors of the Academy, the body which hands out the Oscars, voted this week to strip both men of membership “in accordance with the organisation’s Standards of Conduct”. 

“It has the hallmarks of psychological abuse against our client, who is an older person,” Jan Olszewski, Polanski’s lawyer in Poland told AFP.

“Roman feels that the Academy is acting in violation of its regulations and has asked me to review them,” Olszewski added, calling the Academy’s move the “height of hypocrisy”.

The lawyer also said that “comparing Bill Cosby to Roman Polanski is a total misunderstanding and harassment.”

Cosby, once the darling of American television, faces up to 30 years in prison after being found guilty on three counts of sexual assault on April 26 for drugging and molesting a woman in 2004. 

Polanski’s victim Samantha Geimer, who has sought to end the 41-year-old case against the fugitive director, on Thursday dismissed the Academy’s decision to expel him as “an ugly and cruel action which serves only appearance”.

Olszewski told AFP that “Polanski had one incident in his life, for which he was found guilty, for which he took responsibility”.

“The victim forgave him and for many years he was a member of the Academy. Everyone knew, because the process was transparent and public and nobody was bothered,” he added. 

Commenting on the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment sparked by revelations of long-term and rampant abuse in Hollywood, Polanski told Poland’s Onet.pl news portal this weekend that “there is certainly part, perhaps even a large part, of truth in it, but certainly not everything”. 

The Academy last October also voted to expel disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein in response to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

The body’s 54-member board of governors includes some of the biggest names in the industry, among them Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.

The Academy in December adopted a code of conduct for its 6,000-plus members after dozens of women came forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

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