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Polanski starts “chalet arrest”

A chalet
The court said Polanski could be placed under house arrest Keystone

Filmmaker Roman Polanski has been placed under house arrest at his chalet in the Swiss Alpine resort of Gstaad after posting bail of SFr4.5 million ($4.5 million).

The 76-year-old director will remain there until officials decide whether to extradite him to the United States,where he is wanted for sentencing in a case of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Polanski was picked up under an international arrest warrant on September 26 as he arrived in Zurich to be honoured at the city’s film festival.

He was being held in a prison in Winterthur near Zurich and after an appeal for release pending extradition, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court granted him bail, estimating SFr4 .5 million to be a substantial portion of his fortune. The court also ordered other guarantees to ensure he does not flee the country, including handing over his identity papers and using electronic monitoring at the chalet.

On Thursday Swiss authorities moved him to an undisclosed location for his “personal protection”. A private security guard took up watch at his Gstaad chalet on Thursday night.

International warrant

Polanski was convicted by a US court of having unlawful sex with the underage girl in 1977 but fled the country before sentencing. He has since lived in France as a French citizen. France does not extradite its citizens to the US.

The Swiss justice authorities said they acted in accordance with a mandate from the US, which provided Bern with the number of Polanski’s flight and its time of arrival in Switzerland.

A spokesman from the Swiss justice and police ministry said this was standard procedure.

Switzerland signed its current extradition treaty with the US in 1990. It has been in force since 1997. The treaty contractually binds both countries to apprehend anyone sought by the other.

An international warrant for the filmmaker’s arrest was issued in 2005 for the crime, which is not covered by the US statute of limitations.

US officials were kept abreast of the fugitive director’s whereabouts over the years.

Advance warning

When Polanski was detained at Zurich airport two months ago, questions were raised why Switzerland decided to go after him at that time, even though the director was a frequent visitor to the country.

The justice authorities responded that Switzerland was obliged by treaty to apprehend the director.

Galli said that this was the first time officials had precise details on the director’s arrival in Switzerland and an official American request to arrest him.

A court in California is to discuss the Polanski case on December 10.

Feb. 3, 1978: Federal authorities confirm Polanski is living in France.
May 3, 1978: Provisional arrest request prepared when officials learn Polanski may be in England.
December 1986: Authorities talk to Canadian police after learning Polanski may be travelling there.
May 1988: Authorities receive notice Polanski may travel to Germany, Denmark, Sweden or Brazil. They confirm warrant is active but no arrest is made.
October 2005: The LA District Attorney’s Office tells Interpol Polanski will be in Thailand. He is not arrested.
July 10, 2007: Polanski goes to Israel, but Israelis want more details before making an arrest. By the time the information arrives, Polanski is gone.
Sept. 22, 2009: Swiss inform the US that Polanski is scheduled to appear at a film festival in Zurich. Americans draft a provisional arrest warrant that Swiss authorities execute a few days later.

(Source: Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office)

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR