Swiss justice ministry opposes bail for Polanski

7th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Swiss authorities said Tuesday the 76-year-old French-Polish filmmaker might escape while waiting for an extradition request.

Geneva -- The Swiss justice ministry said Tuesday that it opposed bail for Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski, intensifying the legal dispute over his arrest in Switzerland on a US warrant for child sex charges.

"Yesterday we asked the Federal Criminal Tribunal in Bellinzona to reject Mr Polanski's appeal," a ministry spokesman, Folco Galli, told AFP.

He said that authorities believed there was a "great danger" that the 76-year-old French-Polish filmmaker would escape while awaiting an extradition request from the United States on the 32-year-old case against him in California.

Polanski was regarded as a fugitive by US authorities since he fled the country in 1978 after admitting to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

But he was able to travel in Europe in recent years, and his arrest on 26 September upon arriving in Zurich to collect a lifetime achievement award at a film festival caused dismay in some parts of the movie world.

The official recommendation will be considered by Switzerland's top criminal court in its legal ruling on the bail request.

Polanski's French-led defence team argued in a statement on Tuesday that Polanski promised not to leave Switzerland during the proceedings.

"Mr Polanski is pledging not to leave Swiss territory during the whole extradition procedure and to respect all the obligations that could be imposed on him to guarantee that pledge," said Paris-based attorneys Herve Temime and George Kiejman.

Polanski also made a complaint asking the court to overturn his arrest.

The tribunal in southern Switzerland did not yet indicate when it might rule.

Under an extradition treaty with the United States, prosecutors in California have 40 days from the time of Polanski's arrest to file their extradition request, which the court will then rule on.

Polanski, who is currently believed to be in a jail in Zurich, has the right to appeal at each stage, making possible a long legal dispute.

A Swiss legal expert, Christian Piguet, said the tribunal acted independently from public authorities, but its decisions were unlikely to fall in Polanski's favour.

"It's an international warrant, it can't be opposed," he explained.

Polanski had "fled for 32 years," while the border between Switzerland and neighbouring France, where he was safe from extradition, was virtually non-existent, Piguet said.

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and Adrien Brody, the US actor who starred in Polanski's Oscar-winning "The Pianist," are the latest in a list of some 700 cinema celebrities who signed a petition for his release.

Swiss authorities said they must allow the courts to decide independently on the US request, even though Polanski reportedly travelled to the country before.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner initially wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for Polanski to be freed.

But Clinton told them that the judicial system was responsible for the decision, Kouchner said later. He said that "justice is the same for everyone and in this case we cannot take a position."

AFP / Alexandra Troubnikoff / Expatica

0 Comments To This Article