Tags: eu | switzerland | polanski

Polanski Awaits House Arrest at Alpine Chalet

Thursday, 26 Nov 2009 05:51 AM

 

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GENEVA -- Roman Polanski appeared set to be released from jail on bail Thursday and placed under house arrest in his chalet in the Alps pending a decision on his extradition to the U.S. for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski was believed to be held in a Zurich-area jail a day after a court granted him release on $4.5 million bail. He must also forfeit his passport and wear an electronic bracelet.

The Swiss justice minister said she saw no reason to challenge the surprise decision, but her office declined to say if it had waived an appeal. Athorities have also not said if they will extradite Polanski for fleeing sentencing in Los Angeles over three decades years ago.

In Winterthur, a city near Zurich where media reports have said Polanski is held, a white van with tinted windows was seen entering a prison and leaving a couple of minutes later. It was unclear who was inside the van, and authorities are still declining to say where Polanski has been held or when he might be released.

The bail decision was a major win for the director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" after a series of legal setbacks following his Sept. 26 arrest as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

Polanski was accused of raping the 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting 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 sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days.

Polanski then fled the United States on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced, and has lived in France since.

The court last month rejected Polanski's first bail offer, with his Gstaad chalet as collateral.

Before Wednesday's decision, Polanski offered a bank guarantee and the promise to sacrifice his family's home in Paris if he fled justice.

"I am very happy and relieved," Mathilde Seigner, Polanski's sister-in-law told Le Parisien daily, adding that the director's imprisonment had "enormous consequences on a psychological level" for his children. After Polanski's release, "we're going to drink a nice glass of Champagne and toast together," she said.

Polanski claims the judge and prosecutors in the U.S. acted improperly in his case. His attorneys will argue before a California appeals court next month that the charges should be dismissed regardless of whether Polanski is extradited.

For the duration of the procedures, it appears Polanski will be confined to his $1.6 million chalet surrounded by snowcapped peaks on the outskirts of Gstaad, one of the most exclusive winter resorts in the world. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Roger Moore have called the town home, and it remains popular with celebrities and royalty.

In the village famous for its discretion, some people weren't pleased with all the attention.

"I don't want to talk about what he did," said Martin von Gruenigen, a retired dairy farmer, as he walked his dog in front of Polanski's home. "I have little contact with the rich. Life is quiet here, but there are things I don't like at all here. Like the rich buying all the houses, so we locals can't afford to buy a house."

Polanski's "Milky Way" is a large chalet with a stunning view of the surrounding Alps, including the strikingly snowcapped Ruebli peak. The three-story building with a white stucco wall topped by the brown wooden upper floors appeared deserted Thursday.

The court said Polanski would be subjected to "constant electronic surveillance" at his chalet and an alarm would be activated if he leaves the premises or takes off the bracelet.

The filmmaker is still seen a high flight risk, according to the court.

___

AP writers Frank Jordans in Gstaad, Ronny Nicolussi in Winterthur, Balz Bruppacher in Bern, Eliane Engeler and Alexander G. Higgins in Geneva, and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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