Film Director Polanski Takes Vanity Fair to Court from the Safety of Paris; LEGAL HISTORY AS EVIDENCE IS GIVEN VIA FRENCH VIDEO LINK IN LONDON'S ALL-STAR LIBEL TRIAL

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Byline: PAUL CHESTON

OSCAR-WINNING director Roman Polanski is set to launch the High Court libel trial of the year 200 miles away from London in Paris.

Polanski will make legal history when he conducts his case against Vanity Fair magazine not from the front row of court 13 in the Strand but from a television studio in the French capital.

He will be the first person to bring a contested libel claim by being questioned and cross-examined in front of a jury via a video link.

While movie stars Catherine Deneuve and Nastassja Kinski will feature in the evidence, and Mia Farrow gives evidence from the witness box, Polanski will watch and listen on the link.

It will be kept open throughout the trial, which is expected to last five days.

Polanski knows that were he to take the Eurostar to Waterloo and appear personally he would be arrested and extradited to the United States, where he has the certainty of a prison sentence hanging over him.

The director of The Pianist and Rosemary's Baby fled justice in 1977 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-yearold girl and has lived as a fugitive in Paris knowing he could never return to Hollywood.

As a French national - he also holds Polish nationality - he is safe in Paris but should he set foot in Britain the United States would take immediate action.

Nevertheless he decided to sue the American-based magazine in London and earlier this year won a historic ruling in the House of Lords to allow the case to go ahead.

By a 3-2 margin, the Law Lords ruled that a fugitive from justice, even one guilty of such a serious crime, is still entitled to have his civil rights protected by the courts - however "unattractive" that prospect might be.

Although the High Court has two courts already fitted with video facilities-neither has a jury box. …