Director Polanski Arrested, May Face Extradition

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Zurich, Switzerland—Academy Award-winning film director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police on a decades-old warrant issued in the United States.Polanksi, 76, was nabbed at the airport as he was arriving in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. He had been living in France since pleading guilty, in 1978, to sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. French authorities, claiming that Polanski’s crime was not covered by extradition treaties with the United States, refused to hand over the filmmaker, who fled before he could be sentenced. Although Polanksi has traveled widely in Europe since then, he has avoided countries from which he was likely to be extradited, like the United Kingdom.

Polanski had traveled to Switzerland in the past, often vacationing there, but until 1997 the country had no extradition treaty that dealt with the crime of sex with a minor. After that time, according to a spokesperson for the Swiss Justice Ministry, the authorities were never certain when Polanksi was in the country.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office learned last week that Polanksi would be traveling to the film festival to receive a lifetime achievement award, and worked in concert with federal authorities to have him detained by Swiss law enforcement.

Polanski now faces a choice: either return to Los Angeles voluntarily, or force the United States to pursue extradition. They have 60 days to file a formal request, and if the U.S. does pursue extradition, Polanksi has the right to appeal. He will most likely not be released on bail, say officials.

In 1977, the director was accused of raping a teenage girl during a photo shoot at the home of actor Jack Nicholson. He claims that the encounter was consensual, but pled guilty to one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse nevertheless.

Lawyers filed an appeal on his behalf earlier this year, claiming the the conviction should be dismissed because of alleged improper conduct by the judge in the case, who has since died. The court ruled that any appeal filed while Polanski was still at large would not be heard.

Polanski has directed a number of films, among them “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” and “The Pianist,” for which he received a best director Oscar in 2002. He accepted that award in absentia. He is also well-known for his role in the Manson family murders, the most high-profile of which was of Polanski’s pregnant girlfriend, Sharon Tate, and which took place in his Hollywood home.

 

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