Oscar winner Roman Polanski, who fled the United States and has been out of the country for three decades for his alleged unlawful sex with a minor, was arrested at the Zurich Film festival, reports from Switzerland said Sunday.
File photo of Polish film director Roman Polanski.[Xnhua/Reuters]
Polanski was arrested at the Zurich airport and is now in custody of the Swiss Justice Ministry, according to the report. He was there to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival Saturday. The organizer decided to award him for his important contribution to the film production in spite of the fact that he is wanted by the U.S. government.
The arrest was related to Polanski fleeing the country after pleading guilty in 1977 to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles, Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said. Switzerland does have an extradition treaty with the United States, but Polanski, as a citizen of France, might have some protection under that country's limited extradition treaty.
An extradition hearing would be held in Zurich, but it was unclear when Polanski might be brought to California to face the charges, Gibbons said.
The 76-year-old director, known for the 2002 Academy Award-winning "The Pianist," was charged with having sex with Samantha Geimer at Jack Nicholson's house during a photo shoot. She sued Polanski and got an undisclosed settlement. Later, she came out in support of Polanski's bid to get the charges dismissed.
After pleading guilty, he spent 42 days in custody, but fled to France the following year while awaiting sentencing on his guilty plea in Los Angeles and has not since returned. The United States has sought his arrest worldwide for the past five years or so, Gibbons said.
He unsuccessfully tried to get his Los Angeles County arrest warrant dismissed earlier this year. His attorneys also claimed there was prosecutorial misconduct, but this was dismissed by judges, contending that he could not get this treatment since he had been in hiding abroad.
Polanski, a Jew who escaped Nazi-controlled Poland and whose mother died in Auschwitz, was out of the country when his second wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered in Los Angeles in 1969.
An acclaimed director in international film scene who is praised by critics as a genius of rare talent, Polanski has made a number of popular films which are characterized by violence and sex. He failed to attend the Oscar award ceremony for "The Pianist" at Hollywood for fear that he might be arrested by U.S. law enforcement.
Roger Gunson, a now-retired general attorney who was in charge of Polanski's case, admitted in an HBO documentary aired last year that Polansky did not enjoy a fair treatment.
(China Daily September 28, 2009)