Polanski thanks backers as extradition wait goes on

Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:48am EST
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - Roman Polanski has thanked people who have sent messages of support during his battle to avoid extradition from Switzerland to the United States over a case of having sex with a 13-year-old in 1977.

"These messages have come from my neighbors, from people all over Switzerland and from beyond Switzerland -- from across the world," the Oscar-winning film director wrote in an open letter published on the website of French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy.

"I would like every one of them to know how heartening it is, when one is locked up in a cell, to hear this murmur of human voices and of solidarity in the morning mail," he wrote.

Polanski, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of U.S. authorities when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

The 76-year-old director is now under house arrest at his chalet in the ski resort of Gstaad, facing extradition to the United States where he could be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

He fled the country in 1978 on the eve of sentencing because he believed a judge might put him in jail for 50 years, despite a plea bargaining agreement.

The Swiss Justice Ministry has said it would decide next year whether to extradite the director, whose films include "The Pianist," for which he won an Academy Award, "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "Repulsion."

(Writing by James Mackenzie)

 
<p>Polish-born film director Roman Polanski awaits a public talk in Potsdam February 19, 2009. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke</p>