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September 30, 2009

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Polanski seeks release from Swiss custody

LAWYERS for Roman Polanski filed a motion in a Zurich court yesterday asking that the Oscar-winning director be released from Swiss custody - the first step in his legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States over a 1977 statutory rape case.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court announced the filing and said "the decision will be made within the next weeks."

Legal experts predicted the 76-year-old filmmaker will not be freed any time soon from the prison in Zurich, for he is expected to stay incarcerated through the verdict and through any appeal from either side.

Then, in a separate legal operation, he must contest an expected US extradition request that has not yet been received by the Swiss.

The criminal court would decide on the legality of the US request for Polanski's apprehension, Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press.

The Justice Ministry and Polanski could later seek to overturn any decision at Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal.

"We will examine the ruling and then decide what we will do," Balmer said.

While the director's lawyers were hoping he could get out on bail or under house arrest, Dieter Jann, a former Zurich prosecutor, said Polanski had no chance of an immediate release.

"The extradition department at the Justice Ministry had no other choice," he said. "This was in no way an exceptional case."

Polanski, a dual Polish and French citizen, was arrested on Saturday as he arrived in Zurich to receive an award from a film festival.

The US has been seeking his extradition for having sex in 1977 with a girl, 13.

The motion filed yesterday by the director's newly hired legal team was accompanied by proposals for bail and certain "guarantees," Polanski's French lawyer, Herve Temime, said.

He would not elaborate on those, but said house arrest at the director's Swiss chalet in Gstaad was one option.


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