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Roman Polanski's release from jail imminent, Swiss officials say

November 26, 2009 |  7:01 am

Polanski's chalet

Roman Polanski could be released from a Zurich jail any time now after Swiss justice officials said they would immediately comply with a court's ruling granting the famed director bail.

"Polanski will be released from custody as soon as bail has been transferred, ID and travel documents have been lodged and the electronic monitoring system has been installed and tested," said the Federal Office of Justice in a statement provided to Agence France-Presse.

Polanski is expected to stay at his Alpine chalet, under electronic monitoring.

Legal experts say the bail probably will lengthen the battle over whether Polanski should be extradited to Los Angeles to face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old more than three decades ago. The decision also raises other questions, given that Polanski fled from the United States just before his sentencing in 1978. Swiss justice officials repeatedly have denied his bail requests, saying he is a flight risk.

Under the terms of the bail, Polanski, 76, would be restricted to his chalet in Gstaad, a ski resort with mountain views. The village of 2,500 has long been known as a celebrity hangout, having been home to Elizabeth Taylor, Roger Moore and David Niven, among others.

The Swiss court decided to grant bail based on Polanski's pledge of $4.5-million bail along with what the court called supporting measures, including electronic monitoring, which would alert the authorities if he tried leave home or remove a monitoring bracelet.

"It is very rare to get bail in an extradition case and especially in cases where the person's fled," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and Loyola law professor. "This is a little like giving bail to O.J. after the Bronco chase."

Levenson said she believed the bail could slow the extradition process, because Polanski would have less of an incentive to resolve the issue if he was out of jail. "A Swiss chalet is a lot nicer than a jail here," she said.

-- Richard Winton and Shelby Grad

Photo: Roman Polanski's chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, where the 76-year-old director would be restricted. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini /  AFP/Getty Images