PARIS (Reuters) - A lawyer for Roman Polanski denied on Wednesday that the film director, now in Swiss custody, may opt to face justice in the United States, where he is wanted on a 1977 sex charge, to avoid lengthy extradition procedures.
Earlier, another member of Polanski’s legal team appeared to suggest that the Oscar-winning director might be prepared to go to the United States voluntarily.
“If the procedure drags on, it is not impossible that Roman Polanski could choose to go and explain himself in the United States, where there are some arguments in his favor,” lawyer Georges Kiejman said on France’s Europe 1 radio.
However Polanski’s French lawyer, Herve Temime, said there was no question of the director abandoning his fight against extradition.
“There has been no change in strategy at all,” Temime told Reuters, denying that there was any disagreement within the team mounting Polanski’s legal defense.
“There were some comments by Mr. Kiejman that were misunderstood,” he said. “There is no disagreement at all.”
Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on September 26 in connection with the sex case and a court this week rejected his request for release on bail, saying there was a strong risk that he would flee.
U.S. authorities have until the end of November to make a firm extradition request. Judicial sources say the process could take years if Polanski challenges it.
Polanski, 76, has dual French and Polish citizenship. Swiss authorities arrested him as he flew in to Zurich to accept a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.
In 1977, he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl and spent 42 days in prison having psychiatric tests.
But he fled the United States in 1978, before sentencing, fearing that the judge would overrule his plea agreement for time already served and send him to jail for 50 years.
Polanski, who had U.S. box office hits with his films “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown,” went on to have a successful career in Europe, winning a best director Oscar for his 2002 Holocaust movie “The Pianist.”
In denying him bail, the Swiss court said Polanski would have a strong motivation to run away as a jail sentence in the United States would mean a painful separation from his French wife and their two children, aged 11 and 16.
The court also said Polanski had the financial means to flee.
Reporting by James Mackenzie and Elizabeth Pineau, editing by Richard Williams