Prosecutors vow to pursue Polanski

American justice officials and prosecutors have described the Swiss decision to free Roman Polanski as a disappointment and an injustice but insisted that they will continue their pursuit of the film director.

The case has spanned three decades and two continents, but whether it continues depends largely on where Polanski, 76, travels.

A warrant for his arrest remains active, effectively barring the director from returning to the US, which he fled in 1978 on the eve of sentencing for a charge of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. "The United States believes that the rape of a 13-year-old child by an adult is a crime, and we continue to pursue justice in this case," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.

The Swiss ruling cannot be appealed against, and Polanski is free to return to his native France, which does not extradite its citizens. Polanski appeared to have left his chalet in Switzerland within hours of the ruling.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is running for California attorney general, said he would work with officials to have Polanski returned for sentencing if arrested in a country with a favourable extradition treaty.

Mr Cooley called the decision a "disservice to justice and other victims as a whole".