Polanski: Extradition case based on a lie

Director Roman Polanski broke his silence on Sunday over the bid to extradite him to face child sex charges in the United States, saying the case was based on a lie and accusing authorities of wanting his head on a plate.

In a 900-word statement, Polanski said that he asked “only to be treated fairly like anyone else”.

He had previously told his lawyers to confine their comments to a bare minimum, he said, but now felt compelled to speak out.

“I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie,” Polanski said in a statement released to supporters in Paris.

“I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgement concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago.”

The Oscar-winning director is under house arrest in Switzerland after being arrested in Zurich in September on a US arrest warrant for having had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

A California appeals court quashed a bid last month by the 76-year-old Oscar winner to be tried in absentia for the child sex case, apparently exhausting his opportunities for appeals in the United States.

Polanski is alleged to have plied the teenage girl with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood Hills home of friend Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests.

The director was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy. The charge was later reduced to unlawful sexual intercourse after a plea deal, agreed in part to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial.

Polanski later served 42 days at a secure unit undergoing psychiatric evaluation but fled the United States on the eve of his sentencing in 1978 amid fears that the trial judge planned to go back on a previously agreed plea deal.

In his statement, Polanski insisted that he had served the time agreed and that claims to the contrary in the extradition warrant were false.

“The said request asserts that I fled in order to escape sentencing by the US judicial authorities, but under the plea-bargaining process I had acknowledged the facts and returned to the United States in order to serve my sentence,” he said.

New light
Recent sworn testimony by Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney who handled the 1977 case, supported his version of events, Polanski added.

“Today it is the deputy district attorney who handled the case in the 1970s, a man of irreproachable reputation, who has confirmed all my statements under oath, and this has shed a whole new light on the matter.”

Polanski claimed that the efforts to bring him back to the United States would cause further upset to the victim who has publicly forgiven him after an out-of-court settlement.

“I can remain silent no longer because the California court has dismissed the victim’s numerous requests that proceedings against me be dropped, once and for all, to spare her from further harassment every time this affair is raised once more,” he said.

Polanski’s flight from justice came after a string of hit films including Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown.

The director, whose wife Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson’s “family” in 1969, won an Oscar for his 2002 film The Pianist but was unable to collect the award because of his fugitive status.

The Paris-based Polish filmmaker said he had been force to mortgage the apartment which has been his home for more than 30 years in order to meet his legal costs.

“I am far from my family and unable to work,” added the director.

He completed work on his latest movie The Ghost Writer in his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad where he has been confined since being released from custody December 4.

He hoped Switzerland would “recognise that there are no grounds for extradition, and that I shall be able to find peace, be reunited with my family, and live in freedom in my native land”, he concluded.

Swiss officials said in February that a decision on whether to move forward with Polanski’s extradition could not be made until the director had exhausted his US appeals.

Authorities have however emphasised that any extradition process could take about a year once likely appeals by Polanski against his return had been heard by Switzerland’s highest courts. - AFP


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