Judge Rejects Roman Polanski's Libel Suit Against Israeli Journalist

Polanski had filed suit after Matan Uziel's website called on women to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault, and was quoted saying that director had 'sexually assaulted five girls and teenagers'

File photo: filmmaker Roman Polanski, October 30, 2015.
Jarek Praszkiewicz / AP

Herzliya Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ruled that Roman Polanski must pay court costs of 20,000 shekels ($5,352) to Israeli journalist Matan Uziel, after the film director asked to withdraw the 1.5 million-shekel libel suit he had filed against Uziel last December.

Polanski had filed the lawsuit in response to a website Uziel opened in which he called on women to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault, and was quoted in the international press saying that Polanski had “sexually assaulted five girls and teenagers.”

In his ruling Sunday, Judge Gilad Hess said the director “had withdrawn his suit at a relatively early stage in the process, before the hearing of the evidence and the summaries,” which is why the compensation he was imposing fell substantially below the 200,000 shekels that Uziel had demanded for legal expenses.

Polanski’s request to withdraw the suit was actually filed three months ago, but Uziel demanded that the court not simply erase the filing, but to reject it – to prevent Polanski from suing him again in the future. The court accepted Uziel’s request and rejected the lawsuit without deleting it. Uziel added that he is currently working on producing a documentary film in which seven women from the United States and Germany will testify that they had been harmed by Polanski over the years.

“The courageous decision by the honorable Judge Gilad Hess gives hope to many sex-crime victims and journalists who are being prosecuted and/or persecuted by the wealthy through no fault of their own,” Uziel told Haaretz in response to the ruling. Uziel described Polanski as a “serial rapist who winks at law enforcement, tries to trample complainants through threats and the use of private investigators, and spreads lies in the media. Polanski now tried to make a mockery of the Israeli courts but utterly failed.”

In 1977, Polanski admitted to having sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in Los Angeles. He was released after 42 days of the 90-day psychiatric evaluation he’d been ordered to undergo as part of a plea agreement. In 1978 he fled the United States, fearing that the judge who’d handled his case would cancel the plea agreement and send him to prison. Since then he has been a wanted man in the United States, which has tried but failed to extradite him twice – once from Poland and once from Switzerland.

After he filed the libel suit, the Herzliya court ordered Polanski to come to Israel to appear in court, but the director refused.