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Lawyer: Polanski Will Fight Extradition

Last Updated 12:26 p.m. ET

Imprisoned director Roman Polanski is in a "fighting mood" and will battle U.S. attempts to have him extradited from Switzerland to face justice in California for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl, his lawyer said Monday.

An international tug-of-war over the 76-year-old director escalated Monday as France and Poland urged Switzerland to free him on bail and pressed U.S. officials all the way up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the case.

Polanski, director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," was in his third day of detention after Swiss police arrested him Saturday on an international warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival.

Photos: Roman Polanski

Polanski has told Swiss officials that he will contest a U.S. request that he be transferred to the United States, attorney Herve Temime said in an e-mail. Temime said Polanski's legal team would try to prove that the U.S. request was illegal and that the Oscar-winning director (who fled to France prior to his sentencing in 1978) should be released from Swiss custody.

"Taking into account the extraordinary conditions of his arrest, his Swiss lawyer will seek his freedom without delay," Temime said.

He also told France-Info radio that he was able to speak with Polanski from his Zurich cell.

"He was shocked, dumbfounded, but he is in a fighting mood and he is very determined to defend himself," Temime said.

The arrest prompted angry criticism Monday from fellow filmmakers and actors across Europe.

"It seems inadmissible ... that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him," says a petition circulating in France and signed by artists including Costa Gavras, Stefen Frears and Monica Bellucci.

Oscar-winning director Andrzej Wajda and other Polish filmmakers also appealed for the immediate release of Polanski, a native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child during World War II and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp.

Polanski has already "atoned for the sins of his young years," Jacek Bromski, head of the Polish Filmmakers Association, told The AP. "He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood."

Polanski was "thrown to the lions," said French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand. "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Release on Bail Possible, But With Conditions

The Swiss Justice Ministry on Monday did not rule out the possibility that Polanski could be released on bail under very strict conditions that he doesn't flee Switzerland.

Justice spokesman Guido Balmer said such an arrangement is "not entirely excluded" under Swiss law and that Polanski could file a motion on bail.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped Polanski could be quickly freed by the Swiss, calling the apprehension a "bit sinister."

Under Swiss law it seems an unlikely scenario unless Polanski agrees to forgo any challenge to his extradition to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

Kouchner also told France-Inter radio that he and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski wrote to Clinton, and said there could be a decision as early as Monday if a Swiss court accepts bail.

Polanski has hired Swiss attorney Lorenz Erni to represent him in Switzerland, according to the law firm Eschmann & Erni.

Polanski seems most likely to spend several months in detention, unless he agrees to forgo any challenge to his extradition to the United States. Under a 1990 accord between Switzerland and the U.S., Washington has 60 days to submit a formal request for his transfer. Rulings in a similar dispute four years ago over Russia's former atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov confirmed that subjects should be held in custody throughout the procedure.

That means the procedure for extradition could also be lengthy for the United States. Its request for Polanski's transfer must first be examined by the Swiss Justice Ministry, and once approved it can be appealed at a number of courts.

Polanski has lived in his native France for the past three decades where authorities could not arrest him, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. He is married to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, with whom he has two children.

He continued his work, garnering a Best Director Oscar in abstentia for his 2002 film "The Pianist."

If brought back to the U.S., he may face time behind bars.

"The big issue is whether it would have been better for him to negotiate a surrender when he had the chance," Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson said. "Now it has become an international incident and the district attorney may be under pressure not to negotiate a sweetheart deal. They've gone to all this trouble of getting Switzerland involved. It could make it harder on him."

Nevertheless, some believe the arrest of the 76-year-old Academy Award winner could lead to a resolution that will allow him to once again travel freely.

"I think he will finally get his day in court," criminal defense attorney Steve Cron said, "and there's a good chance his case will be dismissed or the sentence will be commuted to time served."

Meanwhile, Poland and France intend to make a joint appeal to Switzerland and the United States to have Polanski released from his detention, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski told the Polish news agency PAP. Sikorski said he and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner also plan to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer Polanski clemency.

"The good news for him is he's been living under a cloud all these years wondering who would swoop in and arrest him," Cron said. "Now he can get this thing finally worked out."

A Fugitive from Three Decades

Polanski, the director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," reached a plea deal in 1978, but was threatened with more prison time than previously agreed upon and fled before he was formally sentenced.

France has no extradition treaty with the U.S., and while he traveled throughout Europe, he avoided arrest in part because of lax policies on apprehending foreign fugitives. But in recent years, many countries have gradually tightened their efforts to find suspects abroad and extradite them.

Polanski has avoided traveling to countries likely to extradite him. For instance, he testified by video link from Paris in a 2005 libel trial in London against Vanity Fair magazine. He did not want to enter Britain for fear of being arrested.

It's also not clear how hard authorities were searching for him. The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that U.S. authorities have sought Polanski's arrest around the world since 2005, although he has been a fugitive much longer.

"There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming," Balmer told The Associated Press. He rejected the idea that politics may have played a part in the action.

The Justice Ministry insisted Sunday that politics played no role in its arrest order on Polanski, who lives in France but has spent much time at a chalet in the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad. That has led to widespread speculation among his friends and even politicians in Switzerland that the neutral country was coerced by Washington into action.

Polanski's French lawyer Herve Temime told the daily Le Parisien that Polanski stayed in Gstaad for months this year.

"He came here, but I have no idea how frequently," said Toni von Gruenigen, deputy mayor of Saarnen, where the famously discreet community is located. "He kept a low profile."

Previous attempts to apprehend Polanski when he left France were thwarted because authorities didn't learn of his travel soon enough - or Polanski didn't make the trip, said William Sorukas, chief of the U.S. Marshals Service's domestic investigations branch.

"This is not the first time we have done this over the years," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. She said warrants had been sent out whenever rumors circulated that he would be traveling to a country outside France.

"With a high society lifestyle and plenty of visibility, Polanski made it easy for federal authorities and the Swiss to work out this arrangement," said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. "The Feds argue he's a fugitive from justice no matter what confusion may surround the original rape charge. He'll say he has rights in Switzerland that preclude his extradition."

In this case, the honor for Polanski's work proved to be his downfall, Gibbons said.

"It was publicized on the Internet that he was going to be at the Zurich Film Festival," Gibbons said. "They were selling tickets online."

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the director will remain in Zurich until the conclusion of the extradition proceedings. The United States now has 60 days to file a formal request for Polanski's transfer, she said.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington declined to comment on the case Sunday.

Polanski's French lawyer, Georges Kiejman, told France-Inter radio that it was "too early to know" if Polanski would be extradited. "For now we are trying to have the arrest warrant lifted in Zurich," he said.

If he does head back to the U.S., Cohen says he will likely face some time behind bars.

"I think it's likely he's going to spend time in prison. He won't get the maximum that he might have gotten 30 years ago, but I think he will get significant prison time."

Evidence of Judicial Misconduct

Polanski's long-running legal saga gained new momentum late last year with the release of an HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," which claimed misconduct by the now-deceased judge who handled 1977 case and reneged on a plea deal.

In a 1978 interview on 60 Minutes, Polanski responded to Mike Wallace's claim that he ran away.

"I, well as you say, ran away because I think I was very unfortunate to have a judge who misused justice."

With the new evidence presented in the HBO film, Polanski sent a team of lawyers to court in Los Angeles seeking dismissal of the charges.

But despite acknowledging "substantial misconduct," a judge ruled that Polanski would have to appear in person to pursue his motion. Polanski's lawyers said he decided not to risk arrest on a fugitive warrant, and planned instead never to set foot in the United States.

His victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement. But she has since joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over and at one point offering to come to court in Polanski's place to argue for dismissal.

Geimer, who lives in the small town of Kilauea on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, could not be reached for comment Sunday. A man at Geimer's house who identified himself as one of her sons said she wasn't home. He declined further comment.

But the victim's wishes won't count for much here, said CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

"This is a crime against the people of the State of California, as all crimes [there] are," she said on CBS' "The Early Show." "He's been a fugitive for 30 years. He still faces sentencing here in California. It's irrelevant legally that he has a civil settlement with the complaining witness."

In Paris, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said that he was in contact with French President Nicolas Sarkozy "who is following the case with great attention and shares the minister's hope that the situation can be quickly resolved."

Mitterrand added that he was "dumbfounded" by Polanski's arrest, adding that he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them."

Those comments referred, in part, to the fact that Polanski, a native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child during World War II and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at Auschwitz.

Polanski worked his way into filmmaking in Poland, gaining an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film in 1964 for "Knife in the Water." Offered entry to Hollywood, he directed the classic "Rosemary's Baby" in 1968.

His life was shattered again in 1969 when his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four other people were gruesomely murdered in Los Angeles by followers of cult figure Charles Manson. Tate was eight months pregnant at the time.

Eight years later, the Polanski rape case was a sensation when it broke: He was arrested for having sex with the girl, whom he had hired as a model for a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson's house while the actor was away. He was accused of giving her part of a Quaalude pill and champagne, taking her into a hot tub and having sex with her.

Polanski was initially indicted on six felony counts and faced up to life in prison. Instead, he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and the other counts were dismissed.

The maximum sentence he could have faced was 50 years, although prosecutors had said at the time that the typical sentence was 16 months to three years in prison.

In addition to winning an Oscar for directing "The Pianist" (which was also nominated for Best Picture), Polanski was nominated for Academy Awards for directing "Chinatown" and "Tess," and for his screenplay for "Rosemary's Baby." His other major films include "Repulsion," "Macbeth," "The Tenant," "Frantic," "Bitter Moon," "Death and the Maiden" and "The Ninth Gate."

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