ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss authorities will release Roman Polanski into house arrest as soon as he posts $4.5 million bail while the film director fights extradition to face U.S. sentencing over a 1977 case of sex with a 13-year-old girl.
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it had decided not to appeal against a decision by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court granting Polanski’s request for release, and would free him as soon as bail conditions are met.
But Interpol, the global police organization, warned member countries to stay vigilant as Polanski had previously skipped bail and defied court orders.
“Mr Polanski has given us more than 30 years of proof that he does not feel bound to respect any court decision with which he does not agree,” Interpol said in a statement.
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 to receive a lifetime achievement prize at a film festival.
The Swiss court ruled on Wednesday that Polanski could be released against bail of 4.5 million Swiss francs ($4.51 million) but must be kept under house arrest at his chalet in the luxury ski resort of Gstaad.
“Polanski will be released from custody as soon as bail has been transferred, ID and travel documents have been lodged, and the electronic monitoring system has been installed and tested,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The court had noted the bail was a “substantial portion” of Polanski’s fortune and said the director had raised the cash from a French bank using his Paris apartment as security. His lawyer and family have also said that he would not flee.
Polanski was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex after plying the girl with champagne and drugs. He pleaded guilty to one count of sex with a minor.
But he skipped bail and fled before the case was concluded, believing a judge would sentence him to prison despite a plea for time already served.
The Swiss Justice Department is still examining Polanski’s possible extradition but should decide “within weeks” on the U.S. request, a spokesman said earlier on Thursday.
A closed-door hearing on the case for an extradition has already taken place, the spokesman said. The filmmaker faces up to two years in a U.S. prison if he is extradited.
His arrest caused an outcry among France’s artistic and political elite, with ministers initially rushing to his defense. That changed when public opinion was shown to be divided, and the French government has since taken a much more cautious approach.
Asked about the Swiss move on Thursday, the French foreign ministry merely said it had heard about it and Polanski would wait for the Swiss justice system to make a decision.
Polish-born Polanski would have two chances of appealing against any decision to extradite him, potentially dragging the legal dispute on for several months, the Swiss spokesman said.
In his bid for release, the Swiss court had quoted Polanski’s lawyer as saying longer detention could lead to a big financial loss and damages claims against him if the director was unable to finish his new movie “The Ghost,” due for its premiere at the Berlin film festival in February.
Polanski’s Swiss lawyer declined to comment. A new hearing is set for December 10 in Los Angeles when questions about dismissal of the criminal case would be addressed in court.
Polanski’s films include “The Pianist” in 2002 for which he won an Academy Award, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Repulsion” and “Knife in the Water.”
Writing by Emma Thomasson; additional reporting by Sophie Hardach in Paris; editing by David Stamp