Academy Award winning director Roman Polanski, arrested by Swiss police on a 31-year-old warrant for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl, vowed to fight extradition to the U.S. where he could face life in prison.
Polanski, 76, director of such classic films as "Chinatown," Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist," was in Zurich to accept a lifetime achievement award at a film festival when cops, acting on a request from Los Angeles police, arrested him. Polanski jumped bail back in 1977 while facing charges of drugging a young girl and raping her in a hot tub at Jack Nicholson's mansion. He was living as a fugitive in France until his arrest.
“He was shocked, dumbfounded, but he is in a fighting mood and he is very determined to defend himself,” said Polanski's attorney, Herve Temime.
French and Polish authorities vowed to fight the transfer to the U.S of Polanski, who was born in Paris to Polish parents.
"I think this is awful and totally unjust," fumed French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand. "Just as there is an America which is generous and which we like, so there is an America which is frightening, and that is the America which has just revealed its face."
Polanski has lived for decades in France, which has strong anti-extradition laws. But now that he's been captured in Switzerland, he could be brought to the U.S. to face charges that could bring a 50-year sentence.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said he and the French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher will also ask U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer Polanski clemency.
Polanski made tabloid headlines in the late 1960s when his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson's "family" cult in a gruesome stabbing.
In 1977, the then 44-year-old Polanski photographed the 13-year-old girl as part of a guest-editing gig at the French edition of "Vogue." The girl later testified in court that Polanski gave her alcohol and quaaludes and sexually assaulted her without her consent. The now 43-year-old victim, Samantha Geimer, has called for the charges to be dismissed since reaching an undisclosed settlement with Polanski.