One of Switzerland's top judges has defended the authorities' decision to tip off U.S. officials about director Roman Polanski's whereabouts, leading to his arrest in Zurich last month (Sep09).
The Chinatown moviemaker was taken into custody on a 1977 child sex charge after landing in the city for the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to be honoured.
Polanski is wanted by U.S. police after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles and then fleeing to France before he was due to be sentenced in 1978.
But the law caught up with him in September (09) when he was captured by Swiss authorities.
The director, who has had two requests for bail denied, is now awaiting a decision to see if he'll be extradited back to America to receive his punishment.
E-mail correspondence obtained by the press this week (21Oct09) reveal it was officials at the Swiss Federal Office of Justice who sent an urgent fax message to the U.S. Office of International Affairs on 22 September, informing them of Polanski's plans to travel to Zurich and prompting them to issue an international arrest warrant.
Swiss authorities have been criticised for appearing to instigate Polanski's arrest, but Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli insists they were simply following proper police procedure in notifying their U.S. counterparts.
Defending the move, Galli says, "An arrest is a big operation. If we know a wanted individual is coming, we always ask if the arrest warrant is valid. The Americans immediately confirmed that was the case."
Meanwhile, Polanski's French lawyer Georges Kiejman admits the filmmaker may stop fighting extradition and return to the U.S. to face the consequences of his actions.
Kiejman says, "If the proceedings drag on, it's not completely impossible that Roman Polanski might decide to go explain himself in the United States, where there are arguments in his favour."
The director has until 29 October (09) to appeal the bail decision, while U.S. police must file a formal extradition request by 25 November (09) if they want Polanski to return to face justice.