Polanski a free man

Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski will not be extradited

from Switzerland to the United States and is now a free man, Swiss authorities

said yesterday, rejecting a US extradition request and drawing protests from

Washington.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said in the Swiss capital

Bern that all measures restricting Polanski’s movement were lifted, and he was

free to go anywhere he wished.

The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police said: “The

reason for the decision lies in the fact that it was not possible to exclude

with the necessary certainty a fault in the US extradition request.”

Switzerland’s decision was welcomed by French Culture Minister

Frederic Mitterrand, who said he was “delighted for (Polanski’s wife, actress)

Emmanuelle Seigner, his children and his friends, who supported him with dignity

and determination.”

Polanski, a dual French-Polish citizen, is wanted in the US on a

sex-crime conviction for having relations with an under-age girl in 1977.

He pleaded guilty 33 years ago in California to unlawful

intercourse with then 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.


Afterward, Polanski spent 42 days at Chino State Prison.

The US State Department criticised the decision.

Spokesperson PJ Crowely told reporters in Washington that the

United States was disappointed but would weigh its options in how to proceed

legally against Polanski.

Crowley said: “A 13-year-old-girl was drugged and raped by an

adult. This is not a matter of technicality.”

The Swiss said they could not dismiss Polanski’s claim that the 42

days already served constituted his entire sentence, after the US Department of

Justice in May rejected their request to see certain records.

The Swiss Department of Justice said: “In these circumstances it is

not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty that Roman Polanski has

already served the sentence he was condemned to at the time, and that the

extradition request is undermined by a serious fault.”

He was detained in September last year in Zurich on the

long-standing US warrant and has since been held under house arrest in Gstaad,

outside Bern.

Widmer-Schlumpf’s office noted the issue of “good faith.”

“Since he bought his house in Gstaad in 2006, Roman Polanski has

been regularly staying in Switzerland.

Nonetheless, the US authorities did not

file any formal extradition request for years,” the statement from her office

noted.

“Roman Polanski would not have decided to go to the film festival

in Zurich in September 2009 if he had not trusted that the journey would not

entail any legal disadvantages for him,” the statement concluded and rejected

the US request for extradition.”

Polanski’s friend Wojciech Fibak told Polish broadcaster TVN 24

that the ordeal had been like the script to a “horror film.”

“I’m sure there will be great happiness, he will be free at last,”

said Fibak, a former tennis star.

He said the ruling was “the only just decision the Swiss system

could make” and that Polanski would now go straight back to work.

The 76-year-old filmmaker, known for The Pianist, Chinatown and

more recently The Ghost, has been dodging extradition to the US for decades.

In

recent months, he also attempted, but failed, to be sentenced in absentia.

Since fleeing the US more than three decades ago, Polanski has

based himself mainly in Europe because of the outstanding warrants against him.



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