Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 11:57 UK

The slow-burning Polanski saga

The case against film-director Roman Polanski, which resulted in his recent arrest in Switzerland, has been rumbling on for more than 30 years.

Roman Polanski
Polanski has avoided Hollywood and London since the late 1970s

The incident which sparked the long battle took place in 1977, when Polanski had unlawful sex with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey at actor Jack Nicholson's Hollywood home.

The film-maker was arrested and charged with a string of offences, eventually admitting to having sex with a minor. The other charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain.

He spent 42 days undergoing psychiatric evaluation in prison, but was permitted to travel overseas when this was completed.

In February 1978 he travelled to the UK where he had a home, and then went to France where he held citizenship.

US attempts to have him returned from France were thwarted, and Polanski's prolonged period of exile from Hollywood began.


He also avoided the UK, with its stronger extradition agreement with the US, and preferred not to travel to countries where there was any danger of arrest.

This quiet yet unresolved state of affairs continued until the release of Polanski's 2002 film The Pianist, a harrowing story of Nazi-occupied Warsaw which mirrored his own childhood experiences.

Samantha Geimer
Samantha Geimer has called for charges to be dropped

Polanski won the Oscar for best director, and his no-show at the Hollywood awards in 2003 seemed to lead to a new rash of developments in the case.

As The Pianist was raking in box office rewards, a Los Angeles judge made documents from the original case available to the public, which were subsequently posted on the internet.

Samantha Gailey - who became Geimer - spoke out at the time, saying that Polanski should be allowed to return to the US and "should have received a sentence of time served 25 years ago".

Ms Geimer, now a mother of three, reflected on her experiences, saying it was "scary, and looking back, very creepy".

She maintained that her liaison with Polanski had not been consensual, and he would "not take no for an answer".

1977 - Mr Polanski admits unlawful sex with Samantha Geimer, 13, in Los Angeles
1978 - flees to Britain after US arrest warrant is issued
1978 - immediately moves to France where he holds citizenship
1978 - settles in France, where he is protected by France's limited extradition with US
2008 - Mr Polanski's lawyer demands case be dismissed and hearing moved out of LA court
2009 - Mr Polanski's request to have hearing outside LA is denied

A 2005 libel action brought by the film-maker against Vanity Fair magazine concerning allegations about his earlier private life went in his favour.

But his refusal to testify in person at London's High Court reinforced that his exile caused by what had happened in 1977 still hung over him.

In 2008, a new HBO documentary entitled Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired was released, which examined the events leading up to the film-maker's sudden flight from the US, keeping the whole case under public scrutiny.

This year, a flurry of legal activity failed to put an end to the case and the Americans' determination to extradite Polanski, now in his 70s.

His lawyers' attempts to lift the threat of extradition fell on deaf ears, including a bid to hold a court hearing outside the US and ruling that he would have to return to American soil.

Ms Geimer also called for the case to finally be dismissed, saying it "causes harm to me, my husband and children".

But Polanski's arrest and detention in Switzerland - which he considered a friendly country with a home there - suggests a case which began 32 years ago is by no means over.

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