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Film director Polanski arrested in Zurich

Sept. 27, 2009 at 8:21 PM   |   Comments

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ZURICH, Switzerland, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Director Roman Polanski could stay in Switzerland for months if he fights extradition to the United States for a 1977 underage sex case, authorities said.

The director of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," who won an Oscar for directing "The Pianist," left the United States more than 30 years ago, when he failed to appear at his sentencing hearing in the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. A 1978 arrest warrant remains in effect, the Los Angeles Times said Sunday.

Guido Ballmer, a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, told the Times U.S. authorities have 60 days to file a formal request for extradition and Polanski could ask the Swiss Federal Penal Court of Justice to reject the request. If his appeal is denied, Polanski could take it to the Federal Court of Justice -- and if he is still unsuccessful there, he could begin the appeal process again in the lower court.

If Polanski agrees to be extradited, he could be returned to the United States "in the next days," Ballmer said.

Attempts to settle the case have been hamstrung by Polanski's refusal to return to the United States to attend hearings. A Los Angeles judge rejected a request this year to have the charges thrown out.

Polanski was arrested Saturday when he traveled to Zurich to attend the city's international film festival and accept an achievement award, festival organizers told CNN Sunday.

"Roman Polanski, who is one of the greatest film directors of all time, would have been honored for his life's work in Zurich today," the film festival said in a statement. "However yesterday, on Saturday, he was taken into custody while attempting to enter Switzerland due to a request by U.S. authorities in connection with an arrest warrant from 1978."

Polanski was first arrested in 1977 and charged with having sex with a 13-year-old girl at actor Jack Nicholson's Hollywood home. He pleaded guilty and spent 42 days in prison undergoing psychiatric tests, but fled before being sentenced.

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