Roman Polanski, the French film director, has been taken into custody in Zurich over under-age sex offences committed in the US in 1977.
Polanski, 76, was detained on Saturday as he travelled to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. He is being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US authorities. Polanksi admitted having sex with a 13 year-old girl at the home of actor Jack Nicholson in Hollywood but fled the country when he sensed that the plea bargain he had negotiated was likely to be ignored. He has never returned to the US.
A Swiss spokesman said the US would now have to make a formal extradition request. The director can contest his detention and any extradition decision in the Swiss courts. Mr Polanski's lawyer, Georges Kiejman, said he planned to challenge his client's arrest.
The issue has laready been escalated to the French and Polish culture and foreign ministries.
Frederic Mitterrand, France's culture minister, said he was "dumbfounded" by Polanski's detention. He said: "I strongly regret that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them."
He added that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "following the case with great attention and shares the minister's hope that the situation can be quickly resolved".
Polanksi's family fled Poland during the Second World War and settled in France before he went to America to pursue his film career. He is viewed as a major cultural figure in Europe. His wife Sharon Tait, was one of the victim's of serial killer Charles Manson, in 1968.
Mr Polanski fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl. He was initially indicted on six counts and faced up to life in prison.
Earlier this year Judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the judge in the original case, but said Mr Polanski must return to the US to apply for dismissal.
Mr Polanski's lawyers said he would not return to the US because he would be immediately arrested as a fugitive.
The victim at the centre of the case, Samantha Geimer, has previously asked for the charges to be dropped, saying the continued publication of details "causes harm to me, my husband and children". She has also called the court's insistence that Mr Polanski appear in person "a cruel joke".