Switzerland initiated contact with US on Polanski

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The Swiss Justice Ministry wrote to the American authorities before Polanski’s visit to Zurich in September.

Geneva -- Switzerland initiated contact with the United States over the scheduled visit of Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski to Zurich, a move that led to his arrest, a Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

"In September, when we received information that Polanski would be visiting Zurich, we wrote to the American authorities to ask if the warrant was still valid, in order to avoid a pointless arrest," said Folco Galli, confirming media reports.

"This was confirmed and the American authorities sent us the warrant two days later," he told AFP.

Polanski was detained by police acting on a US extradition warrant for 32-year-old child sex offence charges when he flew into Zurich to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Swiss city's film festival on 26 September.

The arrest of the fugitive French-Polish filmmaker has sparked some criticism. Switzerland argued that it had to act given its international obligations.

Swiss newswire ATS reported that Bern contacted US authorities on 21 September about Polanski's planned visit through a fax marked "urgent" and Washington replied on 23 September.

"We did only what we had to. We were obliged by the treaties," said Galli, who sought to dismiss criticism on why the Swiss acted now.

Polanski owns a property in Switzerland and regularly spends his holidays here.

"Before, we did not know when he would arrive in Switzerland. We did not have any indication of his presence," Galli said, noting that on this occasion it was clear Polanski was due to visit.

Swiss media and politicians have speculated that Bern may be seeking to improve its image in Washington following the recent diplomatic dispute with the United States over Swiss banking giant UBS, which helped US tax cheats.

Switzerland's top criminal court on Tuesday declined to release Polanski from jail on bail, saying there was a "high" risk that he could flee the country.

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

AFP / Expatica

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