Polanski says extradition case based on a lie

Sun May 2, 2010 6:09pm EDT
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ZURICH (Reuters) - Film director Roman Polanski has spoken out for the first time against the U.S. case to extradite him, saying the case was based on a lie.

Polanski, 76, is under house arrest in Switzerland awaiting extradition to face sentencing in Los Angeles for a more than 30-year-old sex crime. A California judge last month denied a request by his attorneys to sentence him in his absence.

That decision was seen as clearing the way for the director of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist" to be returned to the United States. Swiss officials have been waiting for the end of proceedings in California before moving forward themselves.

Last week, the film director's lawyers asked a judge to release records they claimed will help Swiss officials decide the Oscar winner's fate, but the Swiss Federal Department of Justice has said these are irrelevant for the decision.

"I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgment concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago," Polanski said in a statement on Sunday night.

In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles, but he fled the country in 1978 when he believed the judge in the case was going to sentence him to more time in jail than he had already served.

In recent years, evidence has been unearthed that suggests the judge, who has since died, may have acted improperly. Polanski's attorneys have argued that because of the judge's actions, the case should be dismissed.

"I can remain silent no longer because for over 30 years my lawyers have never ceased to insist that I was betrayed by the judge, that the judge perjured himself, and that I served my sentence," Polanski said in the statement.

Prosecutors have claimed, and a California judge has agreed, that even if the judge acted improperly, Polanski must return to the United States to face the court.

In September, Los Angeles prosecutors asked Swiss officials to arrest and extradite Polanski, and he is currently confined to his Swiss home while the legal wrangling continues.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Charles Dick)