Roman Polanski's lawyers vowed to fight his extradition over a 32-year-old child sex case, amid reports they may have sparked his arrest by suggesting that US prosecutors were not serious about nabbing the famed film director.Support from the movie industry for the 76-year-old Polish-French Oscar winner grew as top film directors declared themselves "astonished" at his arrest in Zurich for the 1977 case.
"Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision," said a petition organized by SACD, which represents performance and visual artists.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the case was a "bit sinister" adding he had asked the United States to drop the charges.
Polanski, who achieved global acclaim for movies such as Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist, was detained as he arrived on Saturday to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival.
Swiss authorities said they were awaiting an extradition request from the United States over the case in which he admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The victim has since joined defence lawyers in urging for the case to be dismissed.
Los Angeles prosecutors confirmed on Monday they would file a warrant seeking Polanski's return to the United States, noting they had 40 days to prepare it. But Polanski's French lawyer, Herve Temime, said the director rejected any prospect of extradition.
"Given the extravagant circumstances of his arrest, his Swiss lawyer will ask without delay for him to be released, possibly under certain conditions," a statement from Temime added.
Kouchner said he was working with Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski to help Polanski and that they had jointly written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask for the charges to be dropped.
"This affair is frankly a bit sinister. Here is a man of such talent, recognized worldwide, recognised especially in the country where he was arrested. This is not nice at all," Kouchner told France-Inter radio. But the State Department said on Monday it would not wade into the row.Polanski fled the United States in 1978 before sentencing on a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He has never returned, even missing the Oscar award for The Pianist in 2003.
Temine said Polanski visits Switzerland often and owns a chalet in Gstaad where he spent three months this year. Switzerland says Polanski is being held under an international alert issued by the United States in 2005. As Polanski can launch several appeals, a final extradition decision could take weeks or months, legal experts said.
The Los Angeles Times on Monday said Polanski's lawyers may have sparked the arrest by claiming that Los Angeles prosecutors had never sought to extradite him in 30 years.
It cited two unidentified sources familiar with Polanski's case as saying that court motions filed in July by defence attorneys had suggested prosecutors were not serious about capturing him.
"The district attorney's office, in the 30 years since Mr. Polanski left the jurisdiction, has not once sought to have him extradited," attorneys, Chad Hummel, Douglas Dalton and Bart Dalton, argued in a July 7 filing.
A second motion added: "Combined with the fact that no effort has been made to extradite Mr Polanski, the intent here is clear: invoke a physical absence which they caused and deliberately perpetuate in order to preserve the unconstitutional status quo and never address the misconduct head on."
The French consul general Jean-Luc Faure-Tournaire, who visited Polanski in a Swiss prison on Monday, said he was being well treated.
"Mr Roman Polanski is being well treated. He thanks the many people who have shown support through the press and public opinion," the consulate said in Zurich.
In May, a Los Angeles judge refused Polanski's bid to dismiss the underage sex case after he failed to appear in court.
Polanski's legal team argued the conviction should be annulled because the judge who heard the 1970s case had improperly colluded with prosecutors. The judge has since died.