Roman Polanski suffered another setback in his fight against extradition to the United States on Tuesday when a Swiss court ordered the 76-year-old director kept in jail because he poses a high flight risk.
The Federal Criminal Court rejected offers by Polanski’s legal team of bail, house arrest and other measures to ensure that he stays in Switzerland.
The acclaimed filmmaker is considered a convicted felon and a fugitive by authorities in Los Angeles, and the United States is seeking his extradition for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. He was arrested by the Swiss on Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive an award from a film festival.
“The court considered the risk that Roman Polanski might flee if released from custody as high,” the federal court said. “The bail offered by the appellant does not meet in its form the requirements set out by the law.”
The tribunal based in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona left open possibilities for Polanski to challenge its verdict, highlighting some of the options that may feature in what is expected to be a lengthy legal battle over his extradition.
Polanski can appeal to Switzerland’s highest tribunal for release. He can also continue attempts to persuade the Swiss Justice Ministry to release him. More court proceedings are expected after Washington files its formal extradition request, which it has until late November to submit.
The director of such film classics as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown” was accused of plying the underage girl with champagne and part of a Quaalude sedative pill during a modeling shoot in 1977, and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.
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.
However, he was released after 42 days by an evaluator who deemed him mentally sound and unlikely to offend again.
The judge responded by saying he was going to send Polanski back to jail for the remainder of the 90 days and that afterward he would ask Polanski to agree to a “voluntary deportation.” Polanski then fled the country, on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced to the additional time.
In its 17-page verdict, the Swiss court said Polanski offered to surrender his travel documents and submit himself to daily police checks. Those measures were seen as insufficient to prevent his flight because he could always obtain new passports or even travel to his French home without papers.
France does not extradite its own citizens.
The court was also concerned that Polanski could leave Switzerland and avoid the extradition process if he fled by helicopter or private airplane.
Lawyers for Polanski also offered up the director’s chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad as collateral, saying it represented more than half of his personal wealth and that it would definitely guarantee his remaining in the country because he has two children he must support through school. The court, however, sided with Swiss authorities who said even the large bail offer provided insufficient security against flight.
Legal experts have said Polanski stands a minimal chance of a speedy release, as the law dictates that wanted individuals should be held in detention for the duration of their extradition procedures. There is only limited space for exemptions.