Switzerland sets Polish film director Roman Polanski free

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Polish film director Roman Polanski with a Crystal Globe award, in 2005
Image: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

On Monday, Swiss authorities refused a request from the U.S. to extradite Polish film director Roman Polanski, who has been under house arrest in his chalet in Switzerland since December 2009, on charges stemming from the 1977 accusation that he had sex with an American thirteen-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in Los Angeles, California. Though the film director pled guilty to rape and unlawful sexual intercourse, he fled to France before he could be sentenced.

A top U.S. Justice Department official, Lanny Breuer, has said that he is "deeply disappointed" with the Swiss decision, and that the U.S. request that Polanski be sent to the United States was completely supported by treaty, facts and the law. Also, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said "The rape of a 13-year-old girl by an adult who should know better, and that does know better, is a crime. We will continue to seek justice in this case, and we will evaluate our options."

Breuer also stated that the U.S. government will review its options. However, Switzerland has said no appeal to its decision was possible. Polanski was arrested last September by Swiss police when he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime career award at a film festival. The Swiss were acting on a request from the U.S. government.

The Swiss Justice Ministry based its decision on the fact that it was unable to determine whether Polanski had already served the full sentence for his crime. This was due to the Los Angeles Superior Court in May ruling that the records of the closed-door 1977 hearings had to remain secret. The Swiss Justice Ministry said U.S. officials should have backed up their request by providing confidential testimony about Polanski's 1977 sentencing procedure in Los Angeles. In past hearings, Polanski's lawyers argued that there were irregularities in the original handling of the case, and U.S. judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the original judge.