Polanski decision shows Swiss privileges for rich

Switzerland`s decision to reject a US extradition request for director Roman Polanski may have shown that legal principles are paramount here but also left the impression that the rich and famous enjoy special privileges.

Updated: Jul 13, 2010, 21:27 PM IST

Geneva: Switzerland`s decision to reject a US
extradition request for director Roman Polanski may have shown
that legal principles are paramount here but also left the
impression that the rich and famous enjoy special privileges,
Swiss newspapers opined on Tuesday.

Long known for the low tax rates it offers the
super-wealthy, Switzerland set a remarkable legal precedent,
as authorities broke with tradition by analysing far more than
the formalities of the American request, delving deep into
allegations of mishandled justice by Los Angeles authorities.

The Swiss government may have had a strong case for its
action, to guard against complicity in what was interpreted as
an unjustified US pursuit, but the move left authorities open
to claims of favouritism.

"If the main character in this drama hadn`t been Roman
Polanski, but an unknown amateur actor, he would now be
standing before a US court," the daily Neue Luzerner Zeitung
said in an opinion piece.

Polanski`s whereabouts were unknown today, a day after
his sudden release. His wife, French singer Emmanuel Seigner,
is scheduled to perform at the Montreux jazz festival in
western Switzerland on Saturday, and her husband may now join
her.

Polanski`s future plans were are unclear, but people
close to the filmmaker have said he was looking into directing
a movie version of the Broadway show "God of Carnage."

Many Swiss political commentators saw the government`s
decision as an understandable attempt to uphold the spirit of
Swiss law while weighing all the confusion in Polanski`s
33-year-old child sex case. No person should be punished twice
for the same crime, they argue.

Yet several newspapers were skeptical of the Justice
Ministry`s explanations for why it rejected the extradition
request.

Switzerland questioned the validity of the entire US
legal system to rescue Polanski from the threat of arbitrary
law. Yet in such cases, the norm has long been that a suspect
should be handed over to the country where he is wanted, and
his case should be handled in the legal system where he
committed the crime.

If Polanski has already served his sentence, as his
lawyers claim, shouldn`t a US judge be best placed to answer
that question?

"This was an admission that when higher interests are at
stake, not everyone is equal before the law," the widely
respected Neue Zuercher Zeitung wrote. "Some are a bit more
equal."

Another Zurich paper, the Tages-Anzeiger, called the
Swiss decision "shaky."

PTI