Clinton dragged into Polanski row

The international tug-of-war over Roman Polanski escalated today as France and Poland urged Switzerland to free the 76-year-old director on bail.

Diplomatic pressure was being put on US officials all the way up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the case.

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 from a film festival.

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

The Swiss Justice Ministry today did not rule out the possibility that Polanski.

Justice spokesman Guido Balmer said such an arrangement was "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 said he and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski wrote to Mrs Clinton, and said there could be a decision today if a Swiss court accepts bail.

Polanski has hired Swiss lawyer Lorenz Erni to represent him in Switzerland, according to the law firm Eschmann & Erni.

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 deal 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.

The Justice Ministry insisted that politics played no role in its arrest order on Polanski, who has spent long periods of time at a chalet in the luxury 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.

The US has had an outstanding warrant on Polanski since 1978, but the Swiss said American authorities have sought the arrest of the director around the world only since 2005.

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 alleged 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.

Earlier this year, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza in Los Angeles dismissed Polanski's bid to throw out the case because the director failed to appear in court to press his request, but said there was "substantial misconduct" in the handling of the original case.

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