US vows to pursue Polanski

The United States expressed disappointment at Switzerland’s refusal to extradite Roman Polanski and vowed to pursue the three decade hunt for the Oscar-winning director over a child sex case.

The 76-year-old movie maker remained out of the public eye on Tuesday leaving his allies to express joy at the end of his 10 months detention in a Swiss jail and under surveillance at his Swiss chalet.

The Swiss Justice Ministry announced on Monday that it would not extradite Polanski because of “fault” in the US extradition request.

The Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby director admitted plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood home of actor Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests. He fled the United States after making a plea bargain and has been pursued by US authorities ever since.

The United States expressed disappointment at Switzerland’s decision, and vowed to keep pursuing the French-Polish director.

“The rape of a 13-year-old girl by an adult who should know better and does know better is a crime,” US State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said. “We will continue to seek justice in this case and we will evaluate our options.”

Reacting to the “fault” reason given by Switzerland, Crowley said: “A 13-year-girl was drugged and raped by an adult.
This is not a matter of technicality.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley called the Swiss decision “a disservice to justice and other victims as a whole”.

Poland and France hailed the decision. French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner issued statements to express delight.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski thanked his Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey for the “prudent decision”.

Polanski himself paid “massive thanks” to his supporters in a statement.

“I simply want, from the bottom of my heart, to thank all those who supported me and tell them today of my great satisfaction. Massive thanks to everyone,” he said in the message.

Polanski left his Swiss chalet on Monday, but one of his lawyers, Herve Temime, refused to say where he had gone.

Photographers and reporters gathered outside his family residence in Paris in case he arrived there, while Polanski’s wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner (44) welcomed the “end of a nightmare”.

Switzerland’s decision to throw out the US extradition request sparked media debate in Switzerland on whether it marked judicial independence or favoured the film-maker.

Lausanne-based 24 Heures praised Switzerland for making the decision with “remarkable clarity and logic”.

“The double manifestation of independence—the arrest first, and the non-extradition later—gives a welcomed legitimity to this long process,” it said.

However, in an editorial titled “Roman Polanski leaves, the facts remain,” La Tribune de Geneve, noted while there is strong backing for the reason in rejecting the US request: “Don’t forget that there is still a victim. She was 13-years-old at the moment of the event.”

The Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger newspaper said Switzerland’s move was a “judicially shaky decision”.

In 1977, Polanski was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy, but the charge was later reduced to unlawful intercourse after a plea deal agreed in part to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial.

Polanski served 42 days at a secure unit undergoing psychiatric evaluation but fled the United States on the eve of his sentencing in 1978. He said he feared the trial judge would go back on the plea deal.

In September 2009, Swiss police arrested him in Zurich on a US warrant. He was then confined to prison before being bailed on SFr4,5-million ($4,5-million) and ordered to surrender his passport.

He was not allowed out of the grounds of his property in the Gstaad ski resort and was fitted with an electronic bracelet.

Polanski’s first wife Sharon Tate was horrifically murdered by Charles Manson’s “family” in 1969. He won an Oscar for his 2002 film The Pianist but was unable to collect the award because of his fugitive status. - AFP

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