US formally asks for Polanski extradition: Swiss authorities

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The United States has formally asked Switzerland to extradite detained Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski over a three-decades-old child sex case, Swiss authorities said Friday.

The US Embassy in Bern submitted the formal extradition request to the Federal Office of Justice on Oct. 22, 2009, within the deadline of 40 days stipulated under the bilateral extradition treaty, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.

The request will now be forwarded to the canton of Zurich, where Polanski was detained upon his arrival on Sept. 26 to collect an award at the city s film festival.

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.

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

He will also have a further chance to appeal to the federal supreme court, said the justice office.

Polanski s lawyer Herve Temime said the film director will fight the US request.

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

The director of Rosemary s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist has been regarded as a fugitive by US authorities since he fled the United States 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 Switzerland s top criminal court on Tuesday rejected the request, saying there was a high risk that he could flee the country.

The 76-year-old filmmaker had put up his chalet in the glitzy 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.

However, Switzerland s federal criminal court assessed that the bail was not in line with requirements set by the law.

Highlighting the high risk of flight, the court noted Polanski s dual French and Polish nationalities, and pointed out he could travel across the borderless Schengen zone without problem and without travel documents. -AFP

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