Polanski freed as Swiss deny extradition

Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:56pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant and Jason Rhodes

LOS ANGELES/GSTAAD, Switzerland (Reuters) - Switzerland on Monday refused to extradite director Roman Polanski to California for sentencing on a 30-year-old sex crime and freed him from house arrest, causing delight in Europe but dismay in the United States.

Polanski, 76, who admitted to drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl in California in 1977, was released from electronic monitoring at his Swiss chalet in Gstaad.

He said in a statement issued through his French lawyer, Herve Temime: "I don't plan to express myself publicly following the (Swiss) Federal Office of Justice's decision. I simply want to thank from the bottom of my heart those who have supported me... A big thank you to all."

Polanski's whereabouts were unknown. A person who identified herself as the film-maker's assistant said he had left Gstaad, where he had been under house arrest since December.

The Swiss Justice Ministry said it had decided against extradition because of potential technical faults in the U.S. request regarding legal arguments that Polanski had already served his sentence before fleeing Los Angeles in 1978.

In Los Angeles, District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office has fought for years to have Polanski returned, said authorities would seek extradition again "if he's arrested in a cooperative jurisdiction."

Cooley said Switzerland's refusal was "disservice to justice and other victims as a whole... The Swiss could not have found a smaller hook on which to hang their hat."

The U.S. State Department said it would continue to pursue justice. "A 13-year-old girl was drugged and raped by an adult. This is not a matter of technicality," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a Washington news briefing.   Continued...

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