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Polanski free after Swiss reject extradition

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 12, 2010 8:41 EDT
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GENEVA — Swiss authorities have rejected a US extradition request for director Roman Polanski over a child sex case and the film-maker can go free from house arrest, the justice minister said Monday.

“The 76-year-old French-Polish film director Roman Polanski will not be extradited to the USA. The freedom-restricting measures against him have been revoked,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a press conference, reading from a statement.

“The reason for the decision lies in the fact that it was not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty a fault in the US extradition request, although the issue was thoroughly examined,” she said.

The minister said that Bern had decided against extraditing the Oscar winner as it could not be excluded that Polanski had already served sufficient time in jail.

Polanski is alleged to have plied a girl called Samatha Geimer with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood Hills home of actor friend Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests.

Switzerland had sought records that the judge in charge of the case had in a meeting on September 19, 1977 assured the parties that the 42 days spent by Polanski in a psychiatric ward was the entire jail term that he was condemned to.

But the US Justice Department turned down the request for these records, saying that a court ruling required that they be kept secret, the statement said.

“In these circumstances it is not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty that Roman Polanski has already served the sentence he was condemned to at the time and that the extradition request is undermined by a serious fault.

“Considering the persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case, the request has to be rejected,” said the Justice Ministry in a statement.

Earlier version follows:

GENEVA — Swiss authorities said that Roman Polanski was a free man Monday after rejecting a request to extradite the film director to the United States to answer for a child sex case dating back to 1977.

“The Franco-Polish film-maker will not be extradited to the United States and the measures of restriction on his liberty have been lifted,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told reporters at a press conference.

The announcement comes 10 months after Polanski’s dramatic arrest on a US warrant which saw him originally confined to prison before being bailed on 4.5 million Swiss francs (3.0 million euros, 4.5 million dollars) and ordered to surrender his passport.

Polanski, 76, was also not allowed out of the grounds of his 1,800 square metre (19,400 square foot) property in the ski resort of Gstaad and fitted with an electronic bracelet.

The Oscar-winner is alleged to have plied a girl called Samatha Geimer with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood Hills home of actor friend Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests.

The director was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy. The charge was later reduced to unlawful sexual intercourse after a plea deal agreed in part to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial.

Polanski later served 42 days at a secure unit undergoing psychiatric evaluation but fled the United States on the eve of his sentencing in 1978 amid fears that the trial judge planned to go back on a previously agreed plea deal.

While he fought his extradition, Polanski insisted he had served the time agreed and claims to the contrary in the US extradition warrant were false.

“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,” he said in an open letter to supporters in May.

“I can remain silent no longer because the California court has dismissed the victim?s numerous requests that proceedings against me be dropped, once and for all, to spare her from further harassment every time this affair is raised once more.”

He has received support from a host of prominent members of the film-making industry as well as politicians.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand was one of the first public figures to speak for Polanski after his arrest.

Polanski received another wave of support after he was hit with fresh sex crime allegations in May, this time made by a British actress Charlotte Lewis who claimed that the director “forced himself” upon her just after her 16th birthday.

Polanski’s flight from justice came after a string of hit films including “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown”.

The director, whose then wife Sharon Tate was horrifically murdered by Charles Manson’s “family” in 1969, won an Oscar for his 2002 film “The Pianist” but was unable to collect the award because of his fugitive status.

He put the finishing touches on his latest film “The Ghost Writer” while under house arrest in Gstaad.

Agence France-Presse
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