In a move that probably came as no surprise since his arrest in September, the U.S. has formally asked Switzerland to extradite director Roman Polanski on sex charges, Swiss officials said, according to BBC. Recently, the French/Polish director lost an appeal to be released on bail, with the Swiss justice ministry saying he posed a flight risk. Swiss authorities said that Polanski could spend up to two years in prison if he was extradited back to the United States for sentencing in the sexual assault case, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Last month, prosecutors said the proceedings should pick up exactly where they left off in 1978 – with a judge sentencing Polanski for a statutory rape charge. “He will appear before the court and the court will decide what his sentence is,” Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, told The Los Angeles Times in late September, after Polanski was arrested in Zurich.
With paperwork submitted, Swiss authorities will contact the local canton of Zurich, which will hold a hearing, according to a statement from Swiss federal police as reported in the New York Times. If local officials grant the extradition, Polanski can then appeal the move in Swiss Federal Criminal Court and the Federal Supreme Court. Polanski may, according to his French lawyers, Georges Kiejman and Hervé Temime, spend another six months in a Swiss jail while the appeals process plays out.
The 76 year-old Academy Award-winner (“The Pianist”) was arrested while en route to the Zurich Film Festival to pick up a lifetime achievement award, following a controversial tip-off by Swiss authorities to the U.S., which has an outstanding warrant for Polanski who has lived in Paris since escaping from the United States in 1978. The Guardian cites an Associated Press story in which the Swiss asked the U.S. if they wanted Polanski arrested on September 22. The Los Angeles district attorney, which had been prosecuting the case stemming from Polanski’s alleged statutory rape of a 13 year-old girl, quickly drafted an arrest warrant, and the director was taken into custody at a Swiss airport four days later.
“It was a huge shock, we were so surprised. We never thought something like that could happen,” Zurich Film Festival co-director Karl Spoerri told indieWIRE days after his arrest. Festival organizers had gone to the airport to escort the director to the festival when officials told them of his detention.
Though Polanski has a home in Switzerland and reportedly spent a portion of last Summer in the country, he had never been threatened with arrest. He has avoided countries with strong extradition agreements with the U.S., including Great Britain. France, which does not have such treaties in place with America, has been Polanski’s primary home since he fled Los Angeles in the late ’70s.