International Turmoil Brews as Roman Polanski Fights Extradition


We're about 48 hours removed from Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland -- a drop in the bucket of what could be a protracted international battle around the 76-year-old fugitive filmmaker's extradition to the United States, where he fled sentencing after a guilty plea in his notorious child-rape case 31 years ago. And while Polanski prepares his defense (he will contest the extradition), the film world is taking stock -- and taking sides.

If you're to take one lesson from this whole sordid affair, it would probably be to not underestimate the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. It was revealed Sunday that prosecutors had coordinated Polanski's arrest with Swiss officials in Zurich, where they knew the Oscar-winning director would be in town receiving the Zurich Film Festival's lifetime achievement award and teaching a master class. That is a long, long memory, and not an especially healthy one, according to some. "It seems like an especially inauspicious time for the L.A. County district attorney's office to be spending some of our few remaining tax dollars seeing if it can finally, after all these years, put Roman Polanski behind bars," wrote the LAT's Patrick Goldstein.

Maybe, maybe not. After all, theories abound that the Swiss were just trying to do the States a solid amid an ugly tax-evasion scandal involving account holders at the Swiss bank UBS. Still, detaining Polanski was the easy part. Not only does he not want to get back on a plane to L.A., but his French lawyer said he's resolved to fight the extradition process as long as it takes -- which could be months. (The U.S. Justice Department has yet to make an official extradition request, Swiss officials told the AP.) Polanski's legal team in California could use the time to prepare; they confessed to being just as shocked as their client that prosecutors would stage a coup like this now -- especially since he has long owned a home in Switzerland and was reportedly editing his latest film, The Ghost, there this summer.

Meanwhile, the international outcry for Polanski's release radiated from its epicenter in Zurich, where red "Free Polanski" buttons made the film festival rounds Sunday and jury president Debra Winger (!) issued a statement accusing the Swiss judiciary of "philistine collusion. [...] We hope today this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three decade old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities. We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork." Petitions signed by Wong Kar-wai, Monica Bellucci, Stephen Frears and other creative luminaries followed shortly thereafter. Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux even enlisted Harvey Weinstein of all people, who told Screen Daily that he's mobilizing even more filmmakers to come to Polanski's aid in the days and weeks ahead.

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  • Pinecones says:

    Let's definitely give that guy bail - he's got a great track record of showing up for court!
    Despite the decades that have passed, the victim has been paid off and wants the case to go away, and Polanski makes good films - the fact remains: Polanski drugged and sodomized a 13 yr old girl, was convicted and escaped. (And the fact that the girls mother was a pushy stage mom who basically abandoned her to Polanski's care that day with the hope that the photgraphs he was taking of her would catapult her in the business is awful, but does not absolve him from guilt.)
    The judge in the case may have been a crooked fame-whore, but Polanski (despite his status as grieving Manson widower and Holocaust survivor) is not an innocent lamb.
    Original testimony from the Grand Jury in the case:

  • anonymously says:

    He certainly helped the L.A. District Attorney's office remember him by filing motions to have his case dismissed with no intention of returning to the U.S. Nothing makes a low-level government official angrier than work with no payoff.

  • Ricardo Montalban Jr. says:

    Whoever takes his side probably never had his teenage daughter drugged & raped. I was gonna say those film industry bastards on his side should be raped themselves, but they probably enjoy it.

  • Gooser says:

    Yes, we should definitely let the child rapist go free, after all he makes great films, right?

  • Dennis says:

    The guy is a pedophile. He should be brought back for sentencing and go to jail.

  • bdl says:

    Imagine if he did that in the Middle East? Night, Night.

  • Rebecca says:

    I agree. I don't care who this guy is or what he has been through in his lifetime, he still broke the law and did a horrible thing to a young girl and needs to be held accountable for his actions.

  • SilverAsh says:

    Minor technicality = Pleading guilty to rape of a 13 y/o girl.

  • Bill Bixby says:

    I got into an argument with friend of mine once about Polanski. My friend, a film major, said Polanski "made a mistake and people should cut him some slack". WTF? A mistake is not paying your bills on time. A mistake would be having sex with a girl WHO DOES look old enough(not a kid) but you neglected to ask. Someone Polanski's age at that time taking a 13 year old girl and giving her alcohol and illegal drugs before raping and sodomizing her is NOT a F'n mistake. It is a sign of a sick and disturbed sexual predator. Sexual predators of children do not change.

  • huh says:

    Too all those wanting to let him go because he is a great artist, let me have your 13 year old daughters!

  • SunnydaZe says:

    "A very silly case"???
    This isn't Monty Python!
    Look, just "Get Shorty" and bring him to LA. Rape him in the ass and let's call it even, kay?

  • shiftysteve says:

    I'm normally a raging liberal, and this still makes no sense to me. He pleaded guilty to raping a 13 year old girl. How could anyone be on his side? Is genius (real or imagined), an excuse for a crime like this? Should Stephen Hawking be allowed to have 12 year old girls dance naked in front of him? Should Yo Yo Ma be allowed to have sex with mentally disabled teenagers? This is a mystery to me.

  • Jason says:

    It's ridiculous to see wealthy famous movie types defend him because he makes movies. Who cares. He needs to face up to a trial and resolve how he deliberately ruined one little girls life.

  • Bucks says:

    Roman.. appealing to Hillary Clinton for State department intervention is a good idea...I hope you made the prerequisite, Mark Rich contribution to the Clinton Library...You didn't? Ah sorry dude!, That's another fatal lapse in judgment. I see a pattern here...