Director Roman Polanski has been declared “a free man” today by the Swiss government, who rejected a U.S. request to extradite him in order to face charges stemming from a forced sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Switzerland’s decision brings an end to the nine-plus months of Polanski being held in various forms of custody within its borders, and to what feels like an eternity of debating within the international film community over whether Polanski should be punished to the full extent of the law or granted the"But He Made Chinatown” clemency. Because U.S. authorities cannot appeal this decision, and since his longtime adopted home France has a policy against extraditing its own citizens, unless Polanski again enters a country that doesn't have that policy (and given what happened when he showed up in Switzerland just to collect an award, you can bet he’ll Google the shit out of that next time), this may very well spell the end of the U.S.’s three-decades-long pursuit of the 76-year-old filmmaker.
As to the reasoning behind Switzerland's decision, authorities say it had to do with U.S. prosecutors who declined to provide confidential testimony supplied by Roger Gunson, the original district attorney who handled the case, which the Justice Ministry said should prove that Polanski had adequately served his original sentence to 90 days of psychiatric evaluation, thereby invalidating the basis for the extradition request. Swiss authorities stressed that the issue was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty,” but that it had come down to “persistent doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case.”
On the other hand, they also acknowledged that “the wishes of the victim, Samantha Geimer”—who long ago called for dismissal of the charges against Polanski—had factored into their decision. It probably also came down to not wanting to be the nation that “[threw] Polanski to the lions,” in the words of French Cultural Minister Frederic Mitterand, seeing as the Swiss government further admitted that “national interests were taken into consideration.” Whatever the actual reasoning behind the legalese, the point is this: Polanski can now “move freely” (within countries that don't want to get involved, that is), and even though long after he’s dead and gone, we’ll probably still be talking about his guilt and drawing lines in the moral sand over whether he should have been punished, it seems as though he’s officially dodged the bullet on this one.
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