Polanski could face two years prison if extradited

Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:55pm EDT
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By Sam Cage and Lisa Jucca

ZURICH (Reuters) - Film director Roman Polanski could face two years in prison if extradited to the United States after fleeing sentencing in California on child sex charges in 1978, the Swiss justice ministry said.

"The United States want him to be extradited for sexual intercourse with a minor. This carries a maximum sentence of two years under U.S. law," justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli said on Friday.

The United States had formally asked Switzerland to extradite Polanski, the ministry said earlier, adding it would reach a decision based on a hearing and information provided by Polanski's lawyer, but that there was no deadline.

"If he agrees voluntarily to the extradition, the process can be concluded rapidly," Galli said. "If he fights it all the way, it will take months and months."

Polanski will be able to appeal against any extradition decision to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court and, in the last instance, the Federal Supreme Court, the ministry said.

The 76-year-old Oscar-winning director, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested to comply with a U.S. warrant when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

Polanski fled the United States when he was due to be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a girl aged 13.

U.S. judicial sources have said the extradition process is complex and could take years if Polanski challenges it.   Continued...

<p>Director Roman Polanski reacts during a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Oberhausen September 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender</p>