Roman Holiday

Michael Burleigh generously suggests I will have something interesting to say about the arrest of Roman Polanski.Not really: Michael has said it all himself and I agree with every word of it. The Swiss are entirely right to comply with the international arrest warrant. It is the French who at fault for refusing to extradite one of their own nationals.

Polanski should never have fled from the United States. Having fled, he should have returned voluntarily and served his sentence or appealed against it. He is a fugitive from justice and has only himself to blame.

For those who want the latest position, I cannot improve on this story by Reuters. Actually, I can improve on the syntax — and have done so.

Lawyers for the Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski lodged an appeal with a Swiss court on Tuesday against his arrest on a US extradition warrant to face sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

The Swiss Federal Penal Court said in a brief statement on its website that it would make a decision on the appeal within the “next few weeks” after an exchange of written motions and would not give more information on the case in the meantime.

Polanski, 76, who has dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested on Saturday on a US warrant by authorities in Switzerland, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

His Swiss lawyer, Lorenz Erni, told Reuters that Polanski would fight the extradition and that, while the filmmaker was fine, the detention was very tough for him. Erni declined to comment on how long Polanski might remain in prison.

On Monday, a Swiss justice ministry spokesman said it was theoretically possible that Polanski could be released on bail — although that was very unlikely.

The complex extradition process could take years if Polanski challenges it, US judicial sources said. The US authorities have up to 60 days to make a firm extradition request.

The Swiss Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, told a news conference in Berne that her office had not been informed in advance of Polanski’s arrest, which had “lacked finesse” and had looked bad.

Switzerland had acted in accordance with the law but could have acted with more tact — as Polanski was in Switzerland to attend a film festival where the Culture Minister was also due to speak.

The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, urged moderation in the case, adding that, while Polanski should be offered Polish consular help, ministers need not get involved.

“The case involves a great director but still, it is also a case of rape, of sex with a child,” Tusk said. “We should not bring politics into this or speak in patriotic tones.”

The French consul general, Jean-Luc Faure-Tournaire, visited Polanski in jail on Monday and said he was being treated well.

“He thanks the many people who have expressed their support for him,” the consulate said in a statement.

The filmmaker, who won the best director Oscar for 2002 Holocaust film “The Pianist,” is wanted for fleeing the United States on the eve of his sentencing for of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, to whom he also was accused of giving drugs and alcohol.

Polanski had reached a deal with Los Angeles prosecutors to plead guilty to the sex charge and receive 42 days in prison for psychiatric tests, time he had already served. But Polanski believed the judge might overrule the plea and sentence him to as much as 50 years in jail.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office released a chronology on Monday of seven previous attempts to arrest Polanski since 1978 during the director’s expected or actual visits to England, Israel, Canada and Thailand.

 

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