The Swiss government said it won’t extradite fugitive film director Roman Polanski to the U.S. on charges tied to a more than 30-year-old sex scandal in California.
Polanski was released from electronic monitoring at his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, the Justice Ministry said today at a press conference. Polanski, whose films include “The Pianist” and “Chinatown,” is wanted in the U.S. for unlawful sexual conduct with a 13-year-old girl.
“Mr. Polanski is able to move around freely,” Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said at a press conference in Bern today. “He’s been a free man since 11:30 a.m. today. He’s free to leave.”
The Oscar-winning director was arrested at Zurich airport on Sept. 26, as he arrived to collect an award at the city’s film festival. Polanski, 76, was held in a Swiss jail before being placed under house arrest at his holiday home. Polanski was forced to wear an electronic monitoring tag while awaiting the government’s decision on the U.S. extradition request.
The film director was initially charged on six felony counts alleging he drugged and raped the teenager in 1977. He later pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor after the lawyer for the girl’s family asked prosecutors to avoid a jury trial.
“Today it’s about a remaining sentence of maximum of two years,” Widmer-Schlumpf said. After his imprisonment and house arrest, 10 months remain, she said. “Under consideration of all aspects, we’ve decided to reject the extradition request.”
In May, Polanski lost a bid to have a California court release testimony by a former prosecutor that he claims shows the Los Angeles District Attorney is misleading the Swiss government about the sentence he faces. Prosecutors said he faces as long as two years in jail.
Polanski is married to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and has two children. The French-Polish dual citizen won the Oscar for best director for the “The Pianist” in 2003.
The case is People of the State of California v. Roman Polanski, A334139, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).