Roman Polanski's Arrest Becomes Global Issue

SwitzerlandFranceCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemEntertainmentMoviesSexual Assault

The arrest of Roman Polanski has become an international incident, with France and Poland demanding that the famed director be released on bail and questioning why he was taken into custody.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office wants Polanski extradited to face charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl 30 years ago.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France-Inter radio that he and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Polanski be released on bail, calling his arrest a "bit sinister."

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was quoted in French media as saying, "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Swiss authorities told the Associated Press that bail has not been ruled out, but the director would have to stay in Switzerland.

Robert Harris, a British novelist who had worked with Polanski, said in a statement that he believed the arrest was "politically motivated." "I am shocked that any man of 76, whether distinguished or not, should have been treated in such a fashion," he said.

Polanski's decision to attend the Zurich Film Festival this weekend was a major win for a minor event, but it turned into a bigger coup for Los Angeles County authorities who seized the opportunity to arrange the arrest of a Hollywood fugitive.When the Academy Award-winning director of films such as "Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist" arrived at the Zurich, Switzerland, airport Saturday night for a well-publicized appearance, Swiss officials armed with a U.S. arrest warrant took him into custody. The arrest touches off extradition proceedings that could return the filmmaker to the United States to face the child sex case he fled in 1978.

The county district attorney's office, which prosecuted Polanski 32 years ago for the sexual assault and has battled the director in the last year over his attempts to have the controversial case dismissed, initiated the arrest last week when it learned of his travel plans to Zurich.

"It wasn't any secret. It was on the Internet. They were selling tickets to it," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the office. She said prosecutors prepared a provisional warrant and sent it to U.S. Justice Department officials, who presented it to Swiss authorities.

The arrest stunned Polanski, who has long lived in Paris, where his French citizenship protects him from extradition. His attorneys in the U.S. and France said that despite his fugitive status in the United States, the director routinely travels throughout Europe. He owns a chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, and festival organizers said they never considered his U.S. legal problems when recruiting him to headline their event by accepting a lifetime achievement award.

"There were no concerns whatsoever," festival spokeswoman Nikki Parker said.

The length and outcome of Polanski's stay in Switzerland remained uncertain Sunday.

"If he agrees with an extradition, he could be sent to the U.S. in the next days," said Guido Ballmer, a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police.

But statements by his French attorney suggested there was little chance that Polanski would return without a fight. Herve Temime told the French newspaper Le Figaro that he planned to fly to Switzerland with Polanski's wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner, to seek the director's release.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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