Swiss move Polanski to secret location en route to house arrest

Authorities acted to protect Roman Polanski from public attention yesterday by moving him from a jail in the Zurich area to an undisclosed location before his transfer today to house arrest in the Swiss Alps.

Polanski was taken from the jail in Winterthur for "security reasons and personal protection", said Folco Galli, a justice ministry spokesman. Mr Galli declined to say where the 76-year-old director was being held. Polanski was still expected to be taken to his chalet in Gstaad on Friday afternoon. "This doesn't change anything in principle," Galli said. "He will still be transferred."

Polanski won't be allowed to leave his house while Switzerland decides whether to extradite him to the US for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. He will have to wear an electronic tag.

The director of such film classics as Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist has been in Swiss custody since being arrested on 26 September on a US warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival. Authorities in Los Angeles want him returned to be sentenced after 31 years as a fugitive.

Polanski was accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modelling shoot in 1977. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation and sodomy, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sent him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was freed after 42 days but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve the 90 days. The filmmaker fled the US on 1 February 1978, the day he was to be formally sentenced. He has lived in France, which does not extradite its citizens.

Polanski claims the US judge and prosecutors acted improperly in his case. His attorneys will argue before a California appeals court in December that the charges should be dismissed.

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