ZURICH — Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police as he flew in for the Zurich Film Festival and faces possible extradition to the United States for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, authorities said Sunday.
Polanski was scheduled to receive an honorary award at the festival when he was apprehended Saturday at the airport, the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement. It said U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old director around the world since 2005.
"There was a valid arrest request, and we knew when he was coming," ministry spokesman Guido Balmer said. "That's why he was taken into custody."
Polanski, the director of such classic films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, fled the United States for France in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with the underage girl.
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Polanski has asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges' refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.
His victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.
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.