Quaid claims asylum for fear of LA stalkers

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Randy Quaid, the American character actor who has starred in films as diverse as Independence Day, Brokeback Mountain, and the National Lampoon series, has been released from prison in Canada amid a convoluted legal drama which resembles the unlikely plot of one of his many Chevy Chase movies.

A court in Vancouver ruled on Wednesday that Mr Quaid and his wife, Evi, should be freed to fight extradition charges to their native US, where they face outstanding arrest warrants, after the couple produced evidence which suggested they are entitled to Canadian citizenship.

It was the latest twist in a bizarre saga which began when the couple were arrested in Vancouver last week. They swiftly claimed refugee status on the grounds that they are, in their own words, on a "death list" of Hollywood stars and that "star-whackers" killed a string of their famous acquaintances, including Heath Ledger and David Carradine.

In a statement released by her lawyer, Mrs Quaid said: "We feel our lives are in danger." She added: "Randy has known eight close friends murdered in odd, strange manners... We feel that we are next."

In the end, though, they were freed for a different reason. Mrs Quaid produced documentation suggesting that her father had been born in Canada, which under a recent change to that country's law entitles her to claim citizenship for herself and her spouse.

After being released from custody, where they had been held for six days, Mrs Quaid told reporters: "I'm just so proud because I love Canada, I truly do. Everybody has the same sense of humour as me." She added: "It's big, it's beautiful... Just like my husband."

The couple then visited the Vancouver dog pound, where they liberated their pet, a two-year-old blue heeler called Doji. Mr Quaid, who has posted $10,000 (£6,300) bail, told reporters he is proceeding with his asylum claim in case his wife ends up being denied citizenship.

Mr and Mrs Quaid, who are 60 and 47 respectively, are wanted by a court in Santa Barbara, California, where they have been charged with illegally squatting in the guesthouse of a home they once owned, causing $5,000-worth of damage.

A warrant was issued for their arrest after they missed a hearing last Monday. However if they can now convince the Canadian legal system of their right to either citizenship or asylum, they stand a good chance of avoiding extradition to the US.

The couple have recently had a series of brushes with the law in their native California. Randy Quaid was arrested in September on suspicion of burglary and entering a building without consent. Evi was booked on those charges, as well for resisting arrest.

Earlier this year, they were arrested after driving away from a luxury hotel without paying their bill. They pleaded no contest to charges of defrauding an innkeeper and were forced to pay $10,500 in restitution to the establishment.

Mr Quaid, whose career has stalled in recent years, kissed his wife after walking free on Wednesday and told reporters he hoped now to settle in Canada, and work in its film industry.

"I just want a place where I can work and enjoy my life and not feel that someone's, you know, always following me around and trying to steal from me," he said.