x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

US insists efforts to arrest Polanski go back decades

Prosecutors say they have been trying for a long time to have the fugitive film director arrested over under-age sex case.

LOS ANGELES //With Roman Polanski under arrest in Switzerland, prosecutors in the US have disputed a claim by the film director that they had never tried to arrest him after he fled overseas to escape sentencing on charges that he had sex with an underage girl. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Monday that it had had multiple contacts with several countries in efforts to arrest the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, including once with Israel as recently as 2007.

Polanski's arrest in Switzerland on Saturday sparked an international outcry from prominent European supporters and drew questions about why American authorities chose to act now even though he has been living and working openly in Europe for decades. In a statement, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office challenged recent court filings by Polanski's lawyers that suggested he had not been arrested because doing so could draw attention to alleged misconduct by prosecutors.

In July, Mr Polanski's lawyers wrote in a court filing: "The district attorney's office in the 30 years since Mr Polanski left the jurisdiction, has not once sought to have him extradited. If it had, there would have been a hearing regarding the misconduct in this case." Jean Rosenbluth, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a former federal prosecutor, said Polanski's allegations "probably brought him back onto the prosecutor's radar screen. The only way to resolve this is to have Mr Polanski come back here. Prosecutors are people too. If you thumb your nose at them, they might thumb their nose back."

Polanski's agent, Jeff Berg, said he was aware of no efforts to arrest Polanski before Saturday. The timing of the director's arrest «certainly appears unusual,» Berg said, especially since Polanski had spent the summer at his house in Switzerland. Polanski, who has been shooting The Ghost in Germany for the past six months, was in plain sight, Mr Berg said. "How hard would it be to find someone shooting a major film in a European country?" Berg asked.

The director had pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl while photographing her during a modelling session. He was sent to prison for 42 days but claims the judge tried to renege on a plea bargain. On the day of his sentencing in 1978, aware that the judge would sentence him to more time in prison, Polanski fled to France. * AP