Polanski appeal could take a year: Swiss minister

Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:11pm EST
 
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ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Film director Roman Polanski could spend up to a year in courts appealing if Switzerland decided to extradite him to the United States, the Swiss justice minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.

The justice ministry has said it will decide on extradition early in 2010.

Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl but fled the United States on the eve of his 1978 sentencing. He has said he feared the judge was going to renege on an agreement to sentence him to the 42 days he had already served behind bars.

The 76-year-old Oscar-winning director, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of the United States when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 last year. He is now under house arrest at his chalet in Gstaad.

"After an extradition decision by the Swiss justice ministry, Mr. Polanski has the possibility of appealing to the Federal Criminal Court and then the Federal Supreme Court," Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told the newspaper Le Matin Dimanche.

"It's hard to say how long (an appeal) would take, but it could be from several months to a year."

After spending two months in a Swiss jail, Polanski was released into house arrest on December 4.

On January 22, a Los Angeles judge said Polanski had to return to the United States for sentencing, rejecting a request he be sentenced in his absence.

The maker of films including "The Pianist," for which he won an Academy Award, "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," could face up to two years in prison under current California law.

(Reporting by Catherine Bosley, editing by Mark Trevelyan)