Polanski arrest to spark extradition fight

News reports on Monday quoted the Swiss authorities as saying he could be freed on bail if he agrees not to leave Switzerland. Polanski, 76, a French citizen, was detained as he arrived to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival.

Although he is expected to oppose extradition, the arrest raised a strong possibility that Polanski would be returned to the US to face sentencing under his conviction for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. The Swiss action drew some protests in France, where Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview on Monday that he and Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, had written to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, reports said.

Kouchner had already said in a statement that he had spoken with his Swiss counterpart and communicated “the desire of the French authorities that the rights of Polanski be fully respected.”  Separately, French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a statement that he was astonished by the arrest.

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that Polanski, the director of celebrated films like Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby, was put in “provisional detention” pending extradition based on the arrest warrant from the US.

The victim in the case, Samantha Geimer, has long since publicly identified herself and expressed forgiveness for Polanski, who fled the US on the eve of his sentencing in 1978. The legal proceedings around Polanski heated up again in late 2008 with the release of a documentary film, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, that detailed claims of judicial and prosecutorial wrongdoing at the time of the director’s original arrest.

Polanski was initially indicted in 1977 on six felony charges that included rape, sodomy and providing a controlled substance to Geimer. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of having sex with a minor but left the country.

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