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Polanski released into house arrest

By Catherine Bosley

GSTAAD, Switzerland (Reuters) - Film director Roman Polanski was released on bail into house arrest in his Swiss chalet on Friday, following his arrest for fleeing U.S. sentencing for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

A Reuters journalist saw Polanski in one of two cars which swept past some 200 waiting reporters and into the garage of Polanski's luxury home in the upmarket ski resort of Gstaad.

"Roman Polanski was today released from custody pending extradition and transferred to Gstaad, where he is under house arrest at his chalet," the Swiss government said in a statement.

"Polanski has undertaken not to leave his house and property at any time," it said. A police cordon kept media away from the snow-covered three-storey house.

Polanski was released from prison after posting $4.5 million bail, on condition he wore an electronic monitoring tag, surrendered his identity and travel documents and did not leave his house.

House arrest means the Oscar-winning director could spend time with his family -- he is married to French singer and actress Emmanuelle Seigner, with whom he has two children -- while waiting for a decision on extradition.

"It must be special treatment -- if he were a normal man they would keep him in jail," said local resident Anne-Marie Fankhauser, a retired government employee and local resident window shopping in Gstaad.

The 76-year-old Polanski, 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 a film festival.

EXTRADITION

The director -- whose films include "The Pianist" in 2002 for which he won an Academy Award, "Rosemary's Baby," "Repulsion" and "Knife in the Water" -- was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex after plying the girl with champagne and drugs.

He 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.

The Swiss Justice Department is expected to decide on Polanski's possible extradition within weeks but he could appeal, potentially dragging out the dispute for months.

The filmmaker had been moved from a prison near Zurich to an undisclosed location, ready for transfer to the exclusive resort, which is also the winter home of French singer Johnny Halliday and Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The small Alpine town has been popular with celebrities for decades and was favored by actor Audrey Hepburn, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

"It's too much hoopla," said 27-year-old Gstaad resident Andrea, taking bags of Christmas decorations out of a car. She declined to give her surname. "It was 30 years ago and they should have done something long ago."

(Writing by Jason Rhodes and Sam Cage; editing by Jon Boyle)

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