- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009


GENEVA (AP) — Roman Polanski will be moved from jail to house arrest at his Alpine chalet as soon as he posts $4.5 million bail and meets other conditions set by a Swiss court, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said it would not appeal a decision by the Swiss Criminal Court to release the 76-year-old director, adding that he can leave jail after his pays bail, surrenders his identity documents and has an electronic monitoring system installed and tested.

The announcement means Polanski will be able to continue his fight against extradition to the United States in a 1977 sex case from the comfort of his $1.6 million chalet in the exclusive winter resort of Gstaad. Authorities in Los Angeles want him sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

“He must not leave this house,” the ministry said in a statement. Should he violate the terms of release, the bail will be forfeited to the Swiss government.

Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the release would be handled quietly.

“We don’t want to show him off like an exotic animal,” he told The Associated Press.

The bail decision was a major win for the director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” ”Chinatown” and “The Pianist” after a series of legal setbacks following his Sept. 26 arrest on a U.S. warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

Polanski was accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but he 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 released 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 United States on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced, and has lived in France since. He claims the U.S. judge and prosecutors acted improperly in his case, and his attorneys will argue before a California appeals court next month that the charges should be dismissed.

The Swiss will decide on extraditing Polanski in the next “couple of weeks,” Galli said. Extradition would also be subject to appeals.

The Swiss court last month rejected Polanski’s first bail request offering his Gstaad chalet as collateral. Before Wednesday’s decision, Polanski offered a bank guarantee that would cause him to sacrifice his family’s home in Paris if he flees justice again.

“I am very happy and relieved,” Mathilde Seigner, Polanski’s sister-in-law told Le Parisien daily, adding that the director’s imprisonment had “enormous consequences on a psychological level” for his children. When Polanski is released, “we’re going to drink a nice glass of champagne and toast together,” she said.

Polanski has been held in a Zurich-area prison, believed to be in Winterthur, but Warden Walter Vogt told the AP on Thursday that Polanski “could be here or he could be in Bern,” Switzerland’s capital.

Authorities have declined to say how they will transfer Polanski to his chalet called “Milky Way,” which has a stunning view of the surrounding Alps, including the strikingly snowcapped Ruebli peak. The three-story building with a white stucco wall and wooden upper floors appeared deserted Thursday.

Some people weren’t pleased with the attention in the village famous for its discretion, where Elizabeth Taylor and Roger Moore have lived and which remains popular with celebrities and royalty.

“I don’t want to talk about what he did,” retired dairy farmer Martin von Gruenigen said as he walked his dog in front of Polanski’s home. “I have little contact with the rich. Life is quiet here, but there are things I don’t like at all here. Like the rich buying all the houses, so we locals can’t afford to buy a house.”

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Gstaad, Ronny Nicolussi in Winterthur, Balz Bruppacher in Bern, Eliane Engeler and Alexander G. Higgins in Geneva, and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.

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