• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Swiss reject bid to unseal Polanski testimony

Director's lawyers sought transcripts to fight his extradition

GENEVA -- Swiss justice officials on Friday rejected an attempt by Roman Polanski's U.S. lawyers to unseal secret testimony by his original prosecutor in Los Angeles and submit that in the director's fight against extradition to the U.S.

Switzerland works on the assumption that the extradition request from the U.S. is based on correct statements and the secret testimony wouldn't change that, Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said.

Polanski's lawyers, in a motion filed Thursday, said transcripts of testimony by retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson would prove that the extradition request is based on false and incomplete statements by the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

The lawyers claimed they need the testimony to submit it to Swiss authorities who are trying to decide whether to extradite Polanski to Los Angeles for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

But Galli said "such documents are irrelevant for the extradition proceedings."

Countries that have signed mutual extradition treaties "have to work on the assumption that the facts in the extradition request are represented correctly," he told The Associated Press.

Therefore there is no need for Swiss authorities to request any kind of proof for the content of the extradition request, he added.

Switzerland only has to examine whether the facts of the case are punishable under Swiss law and if there's any reason to reject an extradition, Galli said. One possible reason not to extradite would be if Polanski, 76, faces a prison sentence of less than six months.

Swiss authorities arrested Polanski seven months ago as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival. The Oscar-winning director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" was imprisoned for more than two months before being transferred on $4.5 million bail to house arrest at his Alpine chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad.

A California court ruling last week said the director could not be sentenced in absentia, seen as a major setback in Polanski's battle to avoid being returned to the United States after decades as a fugitive.

Swiss legal experts believe that Polanski will eventually be extradited to Los Angeles, even if months of further legal wrangling await. The director can start a new round of appeals in Swiss courts if the government decides to extradite him.

Galli said Swiss authorities are studying the California court ruling, dampening expectations for a quick extradition decision.

Polanski was initially accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a 1977 modeling shoot. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation 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 sent him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. According to lawyers, the judge said that would be Polanski's entire sentence, but he then changed his mind and said he was going to impose an unspecified longer term in prison.

Polanski then fled the U.S. on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be formally sentenced. He has lived since then in France, which does not extradite its citizens.