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Citing flight risk, Swiss officials refuse to grant bail for Roman Polanski

October 6, 2009 |  7:19 am

Swiss justice officials have rejected a request by Roman Polanski to be released from a Zurich jail, where he has been detained for more than a week.

The move was expected and marks the beginning of what is expected to be a long effort by L.A. County prosecutors to have Polanski brought back to face sentencing for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl three decades ago.

Polanski's attorneys have vowed to fight extradition -- and the case is expected to go before a judge in the coming weeks. Polanski had asked government officials to release him from jail while he awaited the hearing.

But the justice ministry decided the famed director posed too great a flight risk.

"We continue to be of the opinion that there is a high risk of flight," said ministry spokesman Folco Galli told the Associated Press.

His supporters have questioned the timing of the arrest, noting Polanski has been to Switzerland many times and even has a chalet at a Swiss resort.

But Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf insisted authorities never knew Polanski traveled to Switzerland -- until L.A. prosecutors informed them Polanski planned to attend the festival.

"This time, we knew that he would be coming. After all, the organizers of the Zurich Film Festival had actively made it known," Widmer-Schlumpf told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

"Switzerland is a constitutional state, and Mr. Polanski should always have counted on being disturbed on his earlier stays as well," Widmer-Schlumpf said.  "The arrest of Mr. Polanski has been sought worldwide by Interpol since 2005. If he comes to Switzerland, we are duty bound to fulfill the arrest as a treaty partner of the United States."

There has been much debate in Switzerland and beyond about whether the Swiss should have arrested Polanski as he exited a plane for the Zurich Film Festival. A former justice minister in Switzerland has said the director should have been warned he would be arrested if he came to Zurich.

-- Shelby Grad

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