UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that LA prosecutors planned Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland after learning he would be accepting a film festival award in Zurich. Prosecutors sent a provisional arrest warrant to the U.S. Justice department which presented it Swiss authorities.
News outlets report that Roman Polanski was arrested by police in Switzerland today on a 31-year-old international warrant as he arrived at the Zurich airport to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival. (The organizers expressed “great consternation and shock”.) The Swiss Federal Justice Department was holding the 76-year-old Oscar-winning director in provisional detention while preparations were made to possibly extradite him to Los Angeles to face that 1978 arrest warrant following his conviction of drugging and having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old minor in the home of Jack Nicholson. Facing a prison term, Polanski fled the United States just before his sentencing. But in the ensuing time, the girl, Samantha Geimer, has publicly forgiven him, and, with Hollywood’s backing, lawyers have tried over the years to get the case dismissed as recently as last year, arguing among other things that he was psychologically shattered after his wife Sharon Tate was killed by the Manson family. Also cited has been a documentary called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired showing what Polanski’s attorneys have said was “a pattern of misconduct and improper communications” among Los Angeles officials regarding the case. In Paris, where Polanski fled and now lives, the French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a statement that he was “astonished” by the arrest.