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Clinton tapped to secure detained Polanski's release
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The international tug-of-war over Roman Polanski escalated yesterday as France and Poland urged Switzerland to free the 76-year-old director on bail and pressed US officials all the way up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the case.

File photo of Polish film director Roman Polanski.[Xinhua/Reuters Photo]

Polanski was in his third day of detention after Swiss police arrested him on Saturday on an international warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

A complicated legal process awaited all sides as the United States sought to secure his extradition for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl and fleeing to France a year later.

The Swiss Justice Ministry yesterday did not rule out the possibility that Polanski, director of such classic films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, could be released on bail under very strict conditions that he doesn't flee Switzerland.

Justice spokesman Guido Balmer said such an arrangement is "not entirely excluded" under Swiss law and that Polanski could file a motion on bail.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped Polanski could be quickly freed by the Swiss, calling the apprehension a "bit sinister". He also told France-Inter radio that he and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski wrote to Clinton.

Polanski was "thrown to the lions", said French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand. "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Polanski, who has duel French-Polish citizenship, has hired Swiss attorney Lorenz Erni to represent him in Switzerland, according to the law firm Eschmann & Erni.

In for a long haul

Polanski seems most likely to spend several months in detention, unless he agrees to forgo any challenge to his extradition to the United States. Under a 1990 accord between Switzerland and the US, Washington has 60 days to submit a formal request for his transfer.

Rulings in a similar dispute four years ago over Russia's former atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov confirmed that subjects should be held in custody throughout the procedure.

That means the procedure for extradition could also be lengthy for the United States. Its request for Polanski's transfer must first be examined by the Swiss Justice Ministry, and once approved it can be appealed at a number of courts.

For now, Polanski is living in a Zurich cell where he receives three meals a day and is allowed outside for one hour of daily exercise.

Rebecca de Silva, spokeswoman for the Zurich prison authorities, said family and friends can see Polanski for an hour each week, but that does not include official visits from lawyers and consular diplomats.

The Justice Ministry insisted on Sunday that politics played no role in its arrest order on Polanski, who lives in France but has spent much time at a chalet in the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad. That has led to widespread speculation among his friends and even politicians in Switzerland that the neutral country was coerced by Washington into action.

"There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming. That's why he was taken into custody," Balmer said. "There is no link with any other issues."

The US has had an outstanding warrant on Polanski since 1978. Polanski has asked a US appeals court in California to overturn a judges' refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.

His victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.

Polanski's arrest prompted angry criticism yesterday from fellow filmmakers and actors across Europe.

"It seems inadmissible ... that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him," says a petition circulating in France and signed by artists including Costa Gavras, Stefen Frears and Monica Bellucci.

(China Daily via agencies September 29, 2009)

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