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October 23, 2009

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US officials closely monitored Polanski before Swiss arrest

AMERICAN prosecutors closely monitored Roman Polanski in Austria and considered seeking his arrest there days before the director's apprehension in Switzerland, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

Los Angeles officials decided against filing a warrant for Polanski's arrest with the Austrian government after questioning how accommodating it would be to an extradition request. They also were concerned about the limited time available before Polanski left the country, according to e-mails obtained by the AP under United States public records request.

The e-mail exchange on September 23 came three days before Polanski traveled to Switzerland and was arrested on September 26 at Zurich's airport. It sheds new light on how closely US officials were monitoring the 76-year-old's movements after being tipped off that he was outside France, and why they chose to go after him in Switzerland, where they are now seeking his extradition for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

'On the move'

"I don't have experience with any Austrian extraditions so I don't know how 'friendly' they would be to extradition on such a case," Diana Carbajal, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, wrote in an e-mail.

She wrote that Polanski had checked out of an Austrian hotel that morning and was "on the move" ahead of his scheduled appearance at the Zurich Film Festival on September 26. With the little time available and questions over extradition, she asked whether it was better to "maintain our position to extradite from Switzerland."

Lael Rubin, another deputy district attorney, answered: "Yes."

Polanski had been in Austria as early as September 16, when he attended the opening night of his cult musical "Dance of the Vampires" in Vienna.

E-mails obtained by the AP show US officials only learned of his upcoming trip to Zurich after the Swiss asked if Washington would be submitting a request for his arrest.

Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the Americans immediately confirmed they would seek Polanski's arrest. As a result, Switzerland was required by treaty to apprehend Polanski, the director of such film classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown."

It is unclear from the e-mails why Los Angeles officials were concerned about Austrian cooperation on a Polanski extradition request.

Austria and the United States have an extradition agreement, and the Vienna prosecutor's spokesman Gerhard Jarosch said wanted individuals have been sent to the US.


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