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Movie-maker Polanski arrested in Switzerland
Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:09am EDT
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By Jason Rhodes
ZURICH (Reuters) - Director Roman Polanski, whose turbulent life has on occasion come close to resembling the violent, perverse world of his movies, was arrested in Zurich on a 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for sex with a 13-year-old.
Polanski, 76, had been due to receive a prize for his life's work at the Zurich Film Festival Sunday evening, opening a retrospective of his distinguished film career but was arrested after arriving in Switzerland Saturday night.
Calling Polanski, who won Best Director Oscar for "The Pianist" in 2003, one of the greatest film directors of our time, festival organizers said they had "received this news with great consternation and shock."
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was "stunned" to hear about Polanski's arrest, his office said, adding President Nicolas Sarkozy was following the case and hoped the matter could be resolved allowing Polanski to return to his family.
"We are going to try to lift the arrest warrant in Zurich ... the (extradition) convention between Switzerland and the United States is not very clear," Polanski's lawyer, Georges Kiejman, told France Info radio.
Zurich Cantonal Police spokesman Stefan Oberlin said the arrest of Polanski, who holds French citizenship, was carried out on instruction from the Federal Justice Department in Berne. Polanski was arrested in the United States in the late 1970s and charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her at a photographic shoot at Jack Nicholson's Hollywood home.
Maintaining the girl was sexually experienced and had consented, Polanski spent 42 days in prison undergoing psychiatric tests but fled the country before being sentenced.
Considered by U.S. authorities as a fugitive from justice, Polanski, whose films include "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," has lived in France, avoiding countries that have extradition treaties with the United States.
"Both the extradition arrest warrant and any extradition decision can be challenged in the Federal Penal Court," the Swiss Federal Justice Department said, adding these decisions could in turn be taken further to Switzerland's Federal Court of Justice.
Few lives have turned into the macabre public spectacle that Polanski's has, first after the gruesome murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate in 1969 by the Charles Manson murder gang, and again eight years later when he was arrested for the statutory rape of the 13-year-old girl.
FANTASIES AND FEARS
But few directors have laid bare their inner fantasies and fears like Polanski in films such as "Repulsion," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Tenant" -- films of disturbing brutality shot through with voyeurism and dark humor.
From early childhood when he escaped the Nazi holocaust in Poland, Polanski's life has appeared, like his movies, to hover precariously on the brink of tragedy.
"I am shocked that any man of seventy-six, whether distinguished or not, should have been treated in such a fashion," said best-selling British writer Robert Harris who worked with Polanski making his book "The Ghost" into a film.
"(The French culture minister) profoundly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already known so many during his life, which has bubbled with spirit and creativity," the statement from his ministry said. Continued...
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