PARIS (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Roman Polanski insisted the US child sex case against him was based on a lie as he broke cover in his campaign to stop his extradition with an open letter published Monday.
In a 900-word statement run by newspapers in France and Switzerland, the Oscar-winning director said that he asked “only to be treated fairly like anyone else” but that US authorities wanted his head on “a platter”.
Polanksi had previously told his lawyers to confine their comments to a bare minimum, he said, but now felt compelled to speak out.
“I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie,” said the maker of hit films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown”.
“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 judgement concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago.”
The director is under house arrest in Switzerland after being arrested in Zurich in September on a US arrest warrant for having had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
A California appeals court quashed a bid last month for him to be tried in absentia, apparently exhausting his appeals opportunities in the United States.
Polanski is alleged to have plied the girl with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood home of actor friend Jack Nicholson before having sex with her.
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.
The director insisted he had served the time agreed and that claims to the contrary in the extradition warrant were false.
“The said request asserts that I fled in order to escape sentencing by the US judicial authorities, but under the plea-bargaining process I had acknowledged the facts and returned to the United States in order to serve my sentence,” he said.
Recent sworn testimony by Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney who handled the 1977 case, supported his version of events, Polanski added.
Polanski claimed that the efforts to bring him back to the United States would cause further upset to the victim who has publicly forgiven him after an out-of-court settlement.
French newspaper Liberation had Polanski’s letter as its main front-page.
In an editorial, the daily said Polanski’s “only crime today is the glory he has acquired with a cinematic body of work that is respected across the world and which makes him the prey of a judge conducting an electoral campaign.”
Switzerland’s main French language Le Temps and the German-language Neue Zurcher Zeitung also reproduced the letter.
The director, whose wife Sharon Tate was 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.
The Paris-based Polish filmmaker said he had been forced to mortgage the apartment which has been his home for more than 30 years to meet his legal costs and was unable to work.
He completed his latest movie “The Ghost Writer” in his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad where he has been confined since being released from custody December 4.
Swiss officials said in February that a decision on Polanski’s extradition could not be made until the director had exhausted his US appeals.
Authorities have however emphasised that any extradition process could take about a year once likely appeals by Polanski against his return had been heard by Switzerland’s highest courts.