Kate Connolly in Berlin, The Guardian, 12 July 2010.
Roman Polanski was able to step beyond the confines of his garden for the first time in 10 months yesterday, after Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him to the US for sentencing on sex charges, seemingly ending a 33-year judicial odyssey.
The 76-year-old film director was believed to be on his way to France last night, after he was released from house arrest at the mountain chalet where he has been staying since December 2009 and his electronic tag was removed.
"The Franco-Polish film maker is now a free man. The restrictions on his liberty have been lifted," said Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, a justice ministry official in Bern.
The decision came as a jolt, as it had been widely predicted that Polanski would be extradited to the
US, where he is wanted for sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in Los
Angeles. The move elicited a furious response from legal authorities in LA and Washington.
Steve Cooley, the LA prosecutor at the forefront of the extradition drive told the LA Times that he was "genuinely surprised and disappointed", adding that "Mr Polanski is still convicted of serious child sex charges".
In Washington, the federal Justice Department said the decision was "regrettable". A spokesman said: "The girl was 13, there was an adult, there was a rape or unlawful sex, whatever you want to call it. We think that's a crime, and that is why we have been pursuing this case over many, many years." Despite expressions of disapproval, it is not clear what actions if any remain for US authorities to bring Polanski to book.
The director was unexpectedly arrested on an American warrant last September while in Zurich to collect a lifetime achievement award for his film work.
The Swiss justice ministry's announcement was made two and a half hours after Polanski had