Swiss minister promises quick Polanski decision

5th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf expects a court decision this week whether to free filmmaker Roman Polanski.

Zurich -- Switzerland's justice minister on Sunday promised a quick court decision on whether detained film director Roman Polanski, who faces child sex charges in the United States, should be freed.

"I expect the federal criminal court to have its priorities and to decide quickly on his action," Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said in an interview with the Sonntags-Zeitung newspaper.

She added however that the detention was the normal "rule" for such extradition cases.

Polanski, 76, was detained in Zurich on 26 September when he arrived to accept an award at the Zurich film festival. The United States has sought his return over a 1977 case in which he admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The Oscar-winning director of "The Pianist", "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" made a counter-application two days later for his arrest warrant to be cancelled.

A federal court in Bellinzone, southern Switzerland, is studying the case. And Polanski's French lawyer, Herve Temime, said he expects a court decision by the middle of the week.

The justice minister said that "the cancellation of an arrest warrant for an extradition would only be justified in exceptional" cases.

Widmer-Schlumpf again defended Switzerland's action in Polanski's arrest, which was criticised by France's culture minister and many top film directors.

"If he came to Switzerland we are obliged as a partner of the United States to carry out his arrest," said the minister.

Polanski pleaded guilty to the child sex charge in California in 1977 and then left the country before he was sentenced, never returning to the United States.

Even though Polanski has a chalet in Switzerland and visits regularly, Widmer-Schlumpf said he had to expect that one day he would be arrested.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting to free Polanski.

But Clinton told them that the judicial system would decide the outcome, Kouchner said Sunday.

"We wrote Mrs Clinton to ask for her advice and she responded that it was something, which we suspected, that was up to justice," he told French television.

Kouchner, who was criticised after he condemned Polanski's arrest, said the sympathy he showed for Polanski was misunderstood.

While he admitted his "personal admiration" for the filmmaker, he said that "justice is the same for everyone and in this case we cannot take a position."

AFP / Expatica

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