Roman Polanski Arrested In Switzerland, Faces Extradition to US
Filmmaker and fugitive Roman Polanski was arrested Saturday in Switzerland, where the director had arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival. He never made it out of the airport: Observing the worldwide arrest warrant in effect since Polanski fled sentencing for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old in 1978, Swiss police met his flight and took him into custody, where he awaits possible extradition back to the United States.
The AP reported the arrest this morning, citing a statement announcing that Polanski, 76, is in "provisional detention for extradition." The filmmaker is expected to contest the proceedings in a Swiss court before his return to the States is assured. He could be back on American soil this week.
It's a swift, stunning development coming after more than three decades of Polanski living and working in France, whose extradition treaties with the U.S. notoriously don't cover French citizens (especially filmmakers) who've drugged and raped adolescent girls. Polanski fled there after doing 42 days in jail during an "evaluation" period in 1978. His case returned to the spotlight last year when Marina Zenovich's documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired revealed judicial improprieties surrounding Polanski's guilty plea and subsequent sentencing.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office acknowledged a review (and thus a potential dismissal) of the case was in order, but added that any such review would only take place if Polanski turned himself in. He didn't fall for it, and thanks to the vigilant Swiss authorities, he didn't have to. "There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming," justice ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told the AP. "That's why he was taken into custody."
Naturally the Zurich Film Festival directors "received this news with great consternation and shock," according to a release on the festival's Web site. The fest also announced it would proceed with its tribute "to give everyone who would like to express their solidarity as well as their admiration a chance to share this feeling."
"We are unable to judge the legal background surrounding the arrest of Roman Polanski," the directors added in a statement. "We are shocked and unable to comprehend this situation, which has affected us deeply. At no time were we aware of the planned arrest of Roman Polanski. This evening's scheduled homage to Roman Polanski's cinematographic oeuvre was intended to express our admiration for one of the most exceptional filmmakers of our time."
Indeed, there's nothing like welcoming a wanted fugitive to zap the fest buzz. On behalf of the United States, I apologize. Sort of. You can have him back just as soon as we're done with him, we promise. Whenever that is. Developing...