Polanski closes on electronic bail

27th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Roman Polanski can leave prison but will have to fight extradition to the United States under house arrest and wearing an electronic surveillance tag, a Swiss court ruled in the latest twist in the director's child sex case.

GENEVA - The Swiss Justice Ministry said Thursday that it would quickly decide whether it would appeal against the surprise ruling by the Federal Criminal Court.

The 76-year-old Oscar winning film-maker remains in prison while the government decides its next move though his family said they expect to spend Christmas with him at his chalet in the resort of Gstaad.

The United States, which has been hunting Polanski ever since he fled the country in 1978 after admitting having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, made no immediate comment.

Acting on a US warrant, Swiss police detained Polanski when he arrived at Zurich airport on September 26 to attend a film festival where he was to receive a special award.

The court agreed to a bail deal after Polanski's lawyers offered a 4.5 million Swiss francs (4.5 million dollars, 3.0 million euros) deposit and agreed that he would hand over his passport and remain under house arrest with 24 hour electronic surveillance.

Legal experts have said that a bail decision in such an extradition case is rare. But Swiss Justice Ministry's spokesman Folco Galli told AFP: "We are not going to waste time when it comes to releasing a detainee."

"The ministry will decide rapidly if it will make an appeal against the Federal Penal Tribunal's decision, in any case, well before the expiration of the 10 day deadline for appeals," he said.

"If the ministry decides not to appeal, the liberation of Mr Polanski can only happen after the bail sum has been transferred and the house arrest is organised, with electronic monitoring," he added.

Polanski's earlier requests to be released on bail were turned down by the criminal court and the Justice Ministry which said the risk of him fleeing the country was too high.

Polanski's lawyers have said he will never accept extradition to the United States.

The earlier court hearings had also found that Polanski's previous bail offer of his chalet in Gstaad was not in line with Swiss legal requirements.

But he has made revised bail offers, and in Wednesday's ruling, the court said Polanski's new offer was adequate to avert the risk of an escape.

The cash bail sum offered was a "substantial portion of Polanski's fortune," said the court on Wednesday.

"Regarding his advanced age in the case of loss of said bail the possibility of re-accumulation of fortune in this amount would not be certain," it noted.

Shortly after the court published its decision, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said she saw "no reason" to contest the court's decision before the supreme court.

The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite Polanski and Swiss authorities have yet to say if they would accept the request.

Lawyers for the director of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" are due to ask a California appeals court on December 10 to dismiss the child sex conviction against Polanski, legal sources said.

Since his arrest, Polanski has been supported by international directors, actors and intellectuals.

The woman who was assaulted by Polanski as a 13-year-old has also called for the case to be dropped.

Polanski's sister-in-law said France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has shown him "great support."

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that it is thanks to the president that Roman has been freed, but he has been super. He gave him great support. The president has been very effective," Mathilde Seigner, the sister of Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner, told Le Parisien newspaper.

Hui Min Neo/AFP/Expatica

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