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US requests Polanski extradition
Officials ask Switzerland for director to be extradited over child-sex case.
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2009 10:18 GMT
Polanski has said he will continue to fight the charges against him dating back to 1978  [AFP]

Officials in the US have formally asked Switzerland to extradite Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning filmmaker, over a 30-year-old child-sex case.

Swiss authorities said on Friday that the request will now be forwarded to the canton of Zurich, where Polanski was detained on September 26 during a visit to collect an award at the city's film festival.

"The US embassy in Bern submitted the formal extradition request to the Federal Office of Justice on 22 October 2009, within the deadline of 40 days stipulated under the bilateral extradition treaty," the Swiss federal office of justice said in a statement.

A local court will then hold a hearing and, "based on the results of the hearing and the information provided by Polanski's lawyer", the justice office will decide whether to accept the extradition request.

"The authorities in Zurich will take charge of the Roman Polanski hearing. They will hold a verbal hearing that would be transmitted to us," Folco Galli, spokesman for the justice office, told AFP news agency.

If the justice office accepts the extradition, Polanski can appeal against the justice office's decision before the country's top criminal court.

Herve Temime, Polanski's lawyer, said his client will fight the US request.

"Mr Polanski is not changing course. He will not accept the US extradition request," Temime told AFP.

Lesser charge

Polanski, 76, has been regarded as a fugitive by US authorities since he fled the country in 1978 after admitting to sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski had initially been charged with rape and five other felonies, before later pleading guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

He has asked to be released on bail pending extradition, but on Tuesday, Switzerland's top criminal court rejected the request, saying there was a "high" risk  he could flee the country.

Polanski had put up his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad as bail, according to court documents.

His lawyers have also argued that given his age and in view of his two children who are still in school, Polanski would not put at risk over half of his assets by escaping.

Source:
Agencies
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