Published: Jul 12, 2010 1:11 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 12, 2010 10:12 AM EDT

BERN, Switzerland (AP) - The Swiss government declared renowned

film director Roman Polanski a free man on Monday after rejecting a

U.S. request to extradite him on a charge of having sex in 1977

with a 13-year-old girl.

The Swiss mostly blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide

confidential testimony about Polanski's sentencing procedure in

1977-1978.

The Justice Ministry also said that national interests were

taken into consideration in the stunning decision.

"The 76-year-old French-Polish film director Roman Polanski

will not be extradited to the USA," the ministry said in a

statement. "The freedom-restricting measures against him have been

revoked."

Polanski's lawyer Herve Temime said the director was still at

his Swiss chalet in the resort of Gstaad, where he has been held

under house arrest since December.

Switzerland's top justice official said he could now leave.

"Mr. Polanski can now move freely. Since 12:30 today he's a

free man," Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declared.

Approving extradition had seemed the likeliest scenario after

Polanski was arrested on Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to

receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival. Polanski

had also suffered a series of legal setbacks this year in

California courts.

Widmer-Schlumpf said the decision was not meant to excuse

Polanski's crime, saying the issue was "not about deciding whether

he is guilty or not guilty."

The Oscar-winning director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown"

and "The Pianist" was accused of plying his victim with champagne

and part of a Quaalude during a 1977 modeling shoot and raping her.

He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by

use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but pleaded guilty to one

count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

What happened after that is a subject of dispute. The defense

says the now deceased judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, had agreed in

meetings with attorneys to sentence Polanski to a 90-day diagnostic

study and nothing more. The judge later changed his mind and

summoned Polanski for further sentencing - at which time he fled to

his native France, attorneys say.