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Swiss say would have arrested Polanski earlier
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland would have arrested film director Roman Polanski on earlier visits to the country if justice authorities had been aware of his presence, a Swiss minister said in an interview published on Sunday.
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said her department had only been aware of previous visits by Polanski, who owns a chalet in Swiss resort Gstaad, after the event.
"This time we knew that he would be coming. After all, the organizers of the Zurich Film Festival had actively made it known," Widmer-Schlumpf was quoted as saying by Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.
Prominent Swiss, including Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, have criticized the handling of the arrest and Polanski was stunned, according to his lawyer, because he was a regular visitor to Switzerland.
The Oscar-winning director has appealed against his arrest on a U.S. extradition warrant to face sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
The 76-year-old, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of the United States when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement prize at the Zurich Film Festival.
Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with the girl but fled the United States on the eve of his 1978 sentencing because he believed a judge might overrule his plea and put him in jail for 50 years.
"Switzerland is a constitutional state and Mr Polanski should always have counted on being disturbed on his earlier stays as well," Widmer-Schlumpf said.
If Polanski had been involved in a traffic accident, for example, his personal details would have been checked and the Justice Department informed, she said.
"The arrest of Mr Polanski has been sought worldwide by Interpol since 2005. If he comes to Switzerland, we are duty bound to fulfil the arrest as a treaty partner of the United States," she added.
(Reporting by Sam Cage; editing by Michael Roddy)
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