Filmmaker Polanski will not be extradited to US (update 4)

Filmmaker freed this noon from house arrrest in Gstaad

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf

Bern, Switzerland ( – Roman Polanski, who has been under house arrest in Gstaad, canton Bern, since he posted bail in October 2009, following his arrest at Zurich Airport in September 2009, will not be extradited to the United States. Swiss Federal Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf made the announcement at a press conference in Bern Monday afternoon 12 July. The film director was convicted and sentenced in the US in the 1970s on charges of having raped a 13-year-old girl but he fled the country before serving his sentence. He had, however, already spent time in a psychiatric prison pending sentencing.

The decision centred around the question of whether or not Polanski had already served, in the US, the jail term to which he had been sentenced. If he has, an extradition request is not valid. The Justice Department Monday issued a statement noting that

on 3rd March 2010, the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) asked the USA authorities to substantiate the extradition request by supplying the records of a hearing carried out on 26th January 2010 by the public prosecutor, Roger Gunson, who was in charge of the case in the seventies. The records should prove that, in a meeting held on 19th September 1977, the judge in charge at the time had expressly assured the representatives of the parties that the 42 days of detention spent by Roman Polanski in the psychiatric unit of a Californian prison represented the whole term of imprisonment he was condemned to. If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the US extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation.

The US Department of Justice turned down the request 13 May, citing a court secrecy ruling.

In these circumstances it is not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty that Roman Polanski has already served the sentence he was condemned to at the time and that the extradition request is undermined by a serious fault. Considering the persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case, the request has to be rejected.

The Swiss government insists that “the issue was thoroughly examined.” Widmer-Schlumpf says the Swiss government was never pressured by others, either the US or the French, in the case.

A second consideration behind the decision was what the justice ministry refers to as concerns over “international public order”: treaties between two countries ” are not to be interpreted only according to their wording, but also to their sense and purpose. They have to be fulfilled respecting the principle of good faith.” Polanski had good reason to believe he could come to Switzerland without incurring legal problems, based on past US and Swiss behaviour, the justice minister notes.

In particular it is necessary to take into account the fact that it is generally known that, since he bought his house in Gstaad in 2006, Roman Polanski has been regularly staying in Switzerland. Nonetheless the US authorities did not file any formal extradition request for years. Moreover, although Roman Polanski was registered in the Swiss registry of wanted persons, he was never controlled by the Swiss authorities. These circumstances justified a confidence basis and Roman Polanski would not have decided to go to the film festival in Zürich in September 2009 if he had not trusted that the journey would not entail any legal disadvantages for him.

Reaction to Polanski’s release: Le Temps (Fre), Los Angeles Times, New York Times,


  1. Jane Preston says:

    Although a disgraceful decision, not really a surprising one. This man should face justice but it seems if you have money & influential backers you can get away with anything .. even the rape of a child.
    Sadly, we now have a two tier justice system.

  2. Jim says:

    This is very disappointing to hear. Time does not make a crime disappear! And I don’t even care if the victim doesn’t want him prosecuted now. It’s not about her, it’s about the sovereignty of our justice system; it is disgusting that a celebrity can get of the hook for a crime like this, no matter how long ago it occurred. Justice should know no time limits!

  3. hugo says:

    Now Switzerland will be known in the U.S. as the country (not neutral to child rapists), but actually wants to be known as a “Child Rapist” harboring nation. Child Rapist of the world, your new home, Switzerland.

  4. Roger Kalter says:

    Firstly, it appears that a judge had ruled that Mr. Polansky’s prison term in a psychiatric ward represented his entire term of punishment ( “42 days of detention spent by Roman Polanski in the psychiatric unit of a Californian prison represented the whole term of imprisonment he was condemned to”) So, it cannot be said that he gone unpunished.
    Secondly, and interestingly, the US claims that court documents are secret (The US Department of Justice turned down the request 13 May, citing a court secrecy ruling.) What a double standard!! When the US requests Switzerland to sidestep the Swiss bank secrecy laws in the UBS case, Swiss laws play no role and 4’500 US clients at UBS were revealed to US authorities.
    You can’t have both ways…..or can you