Polanski a free man after US extradition request denied

Switzerland today rejected a US request to extradite film director Roman Polanski on a charge of having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

The Justice Ministry said that national interests were taken into consideration in the decision, and that Polanski was now a free man.

The Swiss mostly blamed US authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski's sentencing procedure in 1977-1978.

“The 76-year-old French-Polish film director Roman Polanski will not be extradited to the USA,” the ministry said.

“The freedom-restricting measures against him have been revoked.”

It was unclear if Polanski had already left his Swiss chalet in the resort of Gstaad, where he has been held under house arrest since December.

Switzerland's top justice official said Polanski could now leave.

“Mr Polanski can now move freely. Since 12.30 today he’s a free man,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declared.

Approving extradition had seemed the likeliest scenario after Polanski was arrested on September 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival. Polanski had also suffered a series of legal setbacks this year in California courts.

Ms Widmer-Schlumpf said the decision was not meant to excuse Polanski’s crime, saying the issue was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty.”

The Oscar-winning director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” was accused of plying his victim with champagne and part of a sedative during a 1977 modelling shoot and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

What happened after that is a subject of dispute. The defence says the now dead judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, had agreed in meetings with lawyers to sentence Polanski to a 90-day diagnostic study and nothing more.

The judge later changed his mind and summoned Polanski for further sentencing - at which time he fled to France.

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