Swiss authorities reject Polanski bail again

Imprisoned director is still considered a flight risk

GENEVA -- Swiss authorities rejected a new higher offer of bail from imprisoned director Roman Polanski, saying Friday they still think the risk is too high that he would flee the country.

Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the offer was not made in cash and failed to address concerns that the 76-year-old filmmaker would flee Switzerland as he awaits a decision on whether he will be extradited to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

"We still consider the flight risk as high," Galli told the Associated Press.

Polanski has been in Swiss custody since his arrest Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime award from a film festival. He is fighting extradition to Los Angeles, where he is wanted for fleeing sentencing 31 years ago, but has suffered a string of legal setbacks in Switzerland so far.

Polanski filed his latest request Monday, Galli said. The director now has 10 days to appeal the decision to the Swiss Criminal Court, which has already once ordered Polanski kept in jail despite an offer of his Gstaad apartment as collateral, and house arrest and electronic monitoring as conditions of his freedom.

A lawyer for Polanski said the filmmaker would take the new bail request to the courts. "This is absolutely what we want," Herve Temime said.

Legal experts say Polanski has little chance of being released from prison regardless of the bail he posts because of his long history as a fugitive.

The director of such film classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" was accused of raping the 13-year-old 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.

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. Polanski was released after 42 days by an evaluator 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 his lawyers in California are urging a state court to quickly hear his appeal. In court filings this month, the lawyers there said key witnesses in the case are now elderly and have yet to testify under oath.

The U.S. formally asked Switzerland last week for Polanski to be handed over but Galli said the Swiss need "weeks" to make an extradition decision.

The process could stretch out for months if Polanski appeals extradition to the Swiss Criminal Court and, if needed, the Supreme Court.

Polanski's imprisonment in Switzerland continues to divide the country, with authorities defending the action as legally necessary but some politicians and artists questioning the government's motive.

In Lausanne, the Swiss national film archive said it was organizing a "Roman Polanski evening" next week that includes a free viewing of his 1961 short film "The Fat and the Lean," alongside Charlie Chaplin's "A King in New York."

Lionel Baier, an organizer of the event, said the Nov. 4 screening was not an act of solidarity with Polanski or a plea for his case. The aim is to highlight Polanski's importance as a filmmaker, he told The AP.

The archive is largely funded through taxpayer money.
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