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Polanski visits Montreux Jazz Festival

Polanski as he arrived at Montreux on Saturday evening Keystone

Roman Polanski has made his first public appearance since being released last Monday from house arrest in Switzerland, attending the Montreux Jazz Festival.

This content was published on July 18, 2010 - 11:01

Polanski, 76, was detained last September in Zurich - where he was to receive a film festival award - on the basis of a United States request concerning a long-standing sex case.

The film director had been under house arrest in his Gstaad chalet until it was announced on July 12 that the Swiss had refused to extradite him. He had not been seen in public since then.

He has also now given a television interview, making his first direct comments since he was granted his freedom.

Polanski arrived with festival founder Claude Nobs, also a friend, for a performance by his wife, actress and singer Emmanuelle Seigner, at the Lake Geneva festival on Saturday evening.

Polanski was mobbed by photographers as he arrived surrounded by heavy security. He watched his wife from the VIP box.

Seigner started off her set on the closing night of the 44th festival with the theme from Rosemary’s Baby, the 1968 film directed by her husband.

Speaking to the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper, Nobs said that he had visited Polanski three months ago in his Gstaad chalet to discuss his wife’s appearance at Montreux.

Seigner’s concert in the Auditorium Stravinski had been pushed back so as to allow her husband to attend should he be freed, he revealed.

Polanski has been coming to Montreux for five years. “I found him to be fit, but a bit tired,” Nobs was quoted as saying. “But how else should be after having spent months shut in a house with the shutters closed?”

Sex case

US authorities want Polanski to face sentencing related to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in California in 1977 and have filed an extradition request.

Swiss officials turned down the demand, citing potential technical faults and saying that their own request for access to confidential testimony had been turned down.

This document would have helped clarify whether the director of films including Chinatown and The Pianist had in fact served his sentence more than 30 years ago, the officials believed.

The Franco-Polish film maker left his chalet on Monday after nine months' detention in Switzerland and there had been great speculation about his whereabouts.

Rumours that he would attend the festival mounted after a photograph of Polanski arriving at Nobs’ house was published in the 24 Heures newspaper.

Before his appearance at Montreux, Polanski gave an interview to Swiss television TSR.

Polanski’s thanks

"I'm not sure what I will do hereafter," he said. "For the moment I'm happy to be free."

"I never asked for special treatment," he added.

Polanski also thanked all the people who kept sending him messages of support during his months in detention, as well as the residents of Gstaad. He said he retained a friendly relationship towards Switzerland and would return to the alpine village.

"I would also certainly thank my wife Emmanuelle and my children, without whom I would have never been able to hold onto my dignity and perseverance," Polanski said.

He said his son cut off the electronic bracelet that Swiss authorities had required him to wear while he was under house arrest.

The Polanski case has caused great waves both in Switzerland and in the US. While Swiss experts said that the decision not to extradite was legally correct, US justice officials have vowed to fight on.

The film maker still faces an Interpol warrant in effect for 188 countries.

Reaction from the US posted on swissinfo.ch’s website was generally negative, with many saying they could not understand the Swiss stance.

The victim in the case said on Tuesday that she hoped the matter would now be closed, but Polanski's legal team in the US has called for a full inquiry into allegations of judicial misconduct three decades ago.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

Polanski case: timeline

Mar 1977: Roman Polanski, 43, has sexual intercourse with Samantha Geimer, 13.

Apr: Polanski pleads not guilty at trial for rape then in August changes plea to guilty of statutory rape; sentenced to 3 months jail for psychiatric tests.

Jan 1978: Flees to Paris, judge then refuses to give verdict in absentia.

Aug 1994: Prosecutor refuses to dismiss case unless Polanski appears in court. Polanski had already ended the civil case by paying Geimer $225,000.

Dec 2008: Polanski lawyers call for case to be dropped over original trial's unfairness.

Sep 26, 2009: Polanski arrested on arrival at Zurich airport.

Sep 28: Appeals against extradition request; receives wide support from film world and French politicians and intellectuals.

Oct 6: Federal Justice Office refuses to release him.

Oct 23: US formally requests extradition.

Nov 25: Swiss court agrees to house arrest in Gstaad on bail of SFr4.5 million.

Dec 4: Polanski moves to Gstaad chalet, wearing electronic surveillance bracelet.

Jan 2010: Los Angeles court rejects request for trial in absentia, a decision confirmed by appeal court in April.

July 12: Swiss justice minister announces rejection of extradition request.

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Montreux Jazz Festival

The festival, on Lake Geneva, took place from July 2-17. It is now in its 44th year.

The line-up included Phil Collins, Roxy Music, Simply Red, Mark Knopfler, Katie Melua and Vanessa Paradis.

The organisers reported that the festival had suffered, especially in its first week, from a clash with the football World Cup in South Africa. Ticket sales recovered in the second week.

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