The Associated Press is reporting that director Roman Polanski has been taken into custody by Swiss police on the 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski was flying in to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival when he was detained late Saturday at the airport, organizers at the festival said in a statement. Zurich police since confirmed the arrest, but have refused to provide more details because he said it was a matter for the Swiss Justice Ministry. Switzerland and the U.S. have an extradition treaty dating back to the 1950s that is still in force.
Festival organizers said Polanski’s detention had caused “shock and dismay,” but that they would go ahead with Sunday’s planned retrospective of the director’s work. The Swiss Directors Association sharply criticized authorities for what it deemed “not only a grotesque farce of justice, but also an immense cultural scandal.”
Reports Monday had Polanski’s lawyer Herve Temime saying that the Academy Award winning director will fight a request for his extradition from Switzerland to the United States to face justice in the 32-year-old case. He said Polanski has “refused the extradition request” and that another lawyer based in Switzerland will file a motion for his release from Swiss custody. Temime said in an e-mailed statement that the U.S. extradition request was “illegal.”
The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, has a report from the Zurich Film Festival, where the fest’s jury donned red badges reading “Free Polanski” at a press conference on Monday and accused Switzerland of “philistine collusion” in arresting Polanski.
“We hope today this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities,” jury president Debra Winger was quoted in the Reporter. “We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork.”
Film and political heavyweights — from Harvey Weinstein and Cannes Festival head Thierry Fremaux, Italian star Monica Bellucci and directors Costa-Gavras, Wong Kar Wai, Bertrand Tavernier, and the foreign ministers of France and Poland are among the many big names expressing outrage at Polanski’s arrest. Many signed a petition demanding his release, while it is expected that Weinstein will head up a Hollywood lobby fighting the extradition.
This all comes over a year after the release of Marina Zenovich’s documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which discussed how Polanski was the subject of a media onslaught after being convicted of statutory rape with a 13 year-old girl. The doc suggested that he became the victim of a salacious mix of trumped up headlines, frenzied reporters and an attention-starved judge much more eager to satisfy his own desires to tap into the celebrity mix, than adjudicating justice. He fled the United States for France in the midst of this.
Polanski recently asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges’ refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it. The now 45-year-old victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, has joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.
Prior to the arrest, Polanski for many years avoided visits to countries that were likely to extradite him, such as the United Kingdom. He travelled mostly between France, where he resides, and Poland. As a French citizen, he was protected by France’s limited extradition with the United States.
Check back with indieWIRE for further details as they develop.