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Polanski appeals against extradition over sex case

 File photo of film Director Roman Polanski attending a news conference to present his musical
File photo of film Director Roman Polanski attending a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Berlin October 11, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/files
— image credit: Reuters

By Emma Thomasson

ZURICH (Reuters) - Lawyers for Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski lodged an appeal with a Swiss court on Tuesday against his arrest on a U.S. extradition warrant to face sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

The Swiss Federal Penal Court said in a brief statement on its website that it would make a decision on the appeal within the "next few weeks" after an exchange of written motions and would not give more information on the case in the meantime.

Polanski, 76, who has dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested on Saturday on a U.S. warrant by authorities in Switzerland, where the "Chinatown" director was set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

His Swiss lawyer, Lorenz Erni, told Reuters Polanski would fight the extradition and that while the filmmaker was fine, the detention was very tough for him. Erni declined to comment on how long Polanski might remain in prison.

A Swiss justice ministry spokesman said on Monday it was theoretically possible that Polanski could be released on bail, although that was very unlikely.

The complex extradition process could take years if Polanski challenges it, U.S. judicial sources said on Monday. U.S. authorities have up to 60 days to make a firm extradition request.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told a news conference in Berne that her office had not been informed in advance of Polanski's arrest, which had "lacked finesse" and had looked bad.

Switzerland had acted in accordance with the law, but could have acted with more tact, as Polanski was in Switzerland to attend a film festival where the Culture Minister was also due to speak.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk urged moderation in the case, adding that while Polanski should be offered Polish consular help, ministers need not get involved.

"The case involves a great director but still, it is also a case of rape, of sex with a child," Tusk said. "We should not bring politics into this or speak in patriotic tones."

JAIL VISIT

French consul general Jean-Luc Faure-Tournaire visited Polanski in jail on Monday and said he was being treated well.

"He thanks the many people who have expressed their support for him," the consulate said in a statement.

The filmmaker, who won the best director Oscar for 2002 Holocaust film "The Pianist," is wanted for fleeing the United States on the eve of his sentencing over a 1977 charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, to whom he also was accused of giving drugs and alcohol.

Polanski had reached a deal with Los Angeles prosecutors to plead guilty to the sex charge and receive 42 days in prison for psychiatric tests -- time he had already served. But Polanski believed the judge might overrule the plea and sentence him to as much as 50 years in jail.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's office released a chronology on Monday of seven previous attempts to arrest Polanski since 1978 during the director's expected or actual visits to England, Israel, Canada and Thailand.

In the past three decades, questions have arisen about judicial misconduct and the victim, Samantha Geimer, has said Polanski should not face more jail time.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French radio he was working with Poland on the matter and had written to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Questions were raised overseas about a U.S. pardon. The office of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the governor has authority to grant clemency in some cases but has not been approached over the Polanski matter.

(Additional reporting by Gareth Jones; editing by Charles Dick)

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