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Polanski free after Swiss reject U.S. extradition

In a stunning ruling, Roman Polanski was declared a free man Monday - no longer confined to house arrest in his Alpine villa after Swiss authorities rejected a U.S. request for his extradition because of a 32-year-old sex conviction.

The decision left the Oscar-winning director free to return to France and the life of a celebrity, albeit one unable to visit the United States.

Hours after the ruling was announced, Polanski's assistant said he had left his multimillion-dollar chalet with his family.

Half-empty glasses seen on a back porch testified to a hasty exit.

"Mr. Polanski can now move freely," Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said. "He's a free man."

Switzerland, which arrested Polanski, 76, last September as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at a Zurich film festival, blamed U.S. authorities for its decision, citing a possible "fault in the U.S. extradition request." The United States failed to provide confidential testimony to rebut defense arguments the filmmaker had actually served his sentence before fleeing Los Angeles three decades ago, Widmer-Schlumpf said.

The Swiss decision for now ends the United States' long pursuit of Polanski, who has been a fugitive since fleeing sentencing for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. But Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said his office will try again to have Polanski extradited if he is arrested in another country with a favorable extradition treaty.

The U.S. cannot appeal the decision, but Polanski is still a fugitive in the United States. Los Angeles Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said Polanski could be arrested and sent to the United States if he traveled to another country that has an extradition treaty with the United States.

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