Swiss ruling on Polanski bail likely in 2-3 wks

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2009 3:13 PM

Switzerland's highest criminal court is expected to decide in two or three weeks whether to release film director Roman Polanski on bail pending a decision on his extradition to the United States, a court official said Tuesday.

U.S. authorities want Polanski to face justice in California for a sex case 32 years ago.

This is the Polish-French director's second attempt to overturn a Swiss Justice Ministry decision to deny him bail. In its first ruling, the court agreed with the ministry that there was a risk Polanski would flee the country and that he had offered insufficient guarantees.

"A decision on the matter will likely occur in two or three weeks," said Mascia Gregori Al-Barafi, a spokeswoman for the Swiss Criminal Court in Bellinzona.

In his first request Polanski had offered an Alpine chalet apartment as collateral, as well as house arrest and electronic monitoring as conditions for his freedom. It wasn't clear whether his latest offer contains a cash bond, as expected in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities are still evaluating the U.S. request for Polanski's extradition. His detention could stretch for months if he appeals extradition to the Swiss Criminal Court and, if needed, the Supreme Court.

The 76-year-old director was arrested Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival. Authorities in Los Angeles want him extradited for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

The director of such film classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" was accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.

Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator release Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days. Polanski then fled the country on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced.

Polanski claims the judge and prosecutors acted improperly, and a California appeals court will listen to oral arguments from his attorneys next month about why it should require a lower court to decide whether to dismiss charges against the fugitive director, whether he is present or not.