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Switzerland/US/France - Polanski arrest

Polanski fights US extradition over child sex case

Article published on the 2009-09-28 Latest update 2009-09-28 14:37 TU

Polish-French film director Roman Polanski
(Photo: Reuters)

Polish-French film director Roman Polanski
(Photo: Reuters)

Lawyers for the Polish-French director Roman Polanski vowed to fight his extradition to the United States on Monday, after he was arrested in Switzerland at the weekend over a 1977 child sex case in Los Angeles.

The 76-year-old, who pleaded guilty three decades ago to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, has been held since late Saturday, when he arrived in Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival.

US authorities have been pursuing the controversial director of The Pianist for many years. The Swiss Justice Ministry said it was now waiting for a US extradition request.

"We will be demanding that he be freed. Then we will fight the extradition," his lawyer Herve Temine told France's Le Figaro daily. "Humanly, it seems to me unbearable that more than 30 years after the incident, a man of 76, who obviously poses no danger to society and whose artistic and personal reputation are clearly established, should spend a single day in prison.”

Polanski fled the United States in 1978 before after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with 13-year-old girl. He admitted the charge at the time and has never returned, even missing his Oscar award for The Pianist in 2003.

A Swiss justice ministry spokesperson said Polanski was being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US government, and a final extradition decision can be taken only after the judicial process has been "finalised”.

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Wildmer-Schlumpf said her country had to act on the US request and there was no political pressure involved.

There was "no other solution" but to arrest Polanski, she said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, confirmed that moves to detain the director were set in motion last week.

"It wasn't a big secret that he was going to be in Zurich," Gibbons said.

The Polish and French foreign ministers Radoslaw Sikorski and Bernard Kouchner agreed to approach to US authorities together, Poland's PAP news agency reported, including asking for a possible pardon from President Barack Obama.

Samantha Geimer, the 1977 victim, who is now 45, has joined defence lawyers in urging the dismissal of the case. She received an unspecified settlement from the director.