Polanski fights extradition as Hollywood watches

Mon Sep 28, 2009 7:38pm EDT
 
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By Emma Thomasson and Estelle Shirbon

ZURICH/PARIS (Reuters) - Roman Polanski's extradition to the United States on a decades-old sex charge could take years to accomplish after the Oscar-winning film director decided on Monday to fight his removal from Europe.

Polanski, 76, who has dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested on Saturday on a U.S. warrant by authorities in Switzerland, where the "Chinatown" director was set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

"He is in fighting mood and determined to defend himself," Herve Temime, Polanski's lawyer, told France Info radio, adding that the movie director was stunned by the arrest because he was a regular visitor to Switzerland.

Temime said he had requested Polanski's release from a Swiss prison but a Justice Ministry spokesman said it was very unlikely the director could be released on bail.

U.S. judicial sources, who requested anonymity because they were not directly involved in the case, said the complex extradition process could take years if Polanski challenges it. U.S. authorities have up to 60 days to make a firm extradition request, but Polanski can appeal to the Swiss courts.

The filmmaker, who won the best director Oscar for 2002 Holocaust film "The Pianist," is wanted for fleeing the United States on the eve of his formal sentencing over a 1977 criminal charge of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, to whom he also was accused of giving drugs and alcohol.

At the time, Polanski had reached a deal with Los Angeles prosecutors to plead guilty to the sex charge and receive 42 days in prison for psychiatric tests -- time that he had already served. But Polanski believed the judge might overrule the plea and sentence him to as much as 50 years in jail.

A Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman did not return calls for comment on Monday.   Continued...

 
<p>File photo of film Director Roman Polanski attending a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Berlin October 11, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/files</p>