Harvey Weinstein has leant his support to a move by the French film-making community to petition against the possible US extradition of Roman Polanski following the Oscar winning director’s arrest in Zurich late on Saturday.

Weinstein immediately become involved when he was approached by Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux after Polanski was taken into custody in connection with the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl dating back to 1977.

“We’re calling on every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation,” Weinstein said. Sources close to The Weinstein Company said the mogul would reach out to Hollywood to lobby against any move to bring Polanski to the US, where he could face up to 50 years in jail.

It is understood the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office learned of Polanski’s trip to the Zurich Film Festival and presented an arrest warrant to Swiss authorities who promptly took him into custody. The Oscar winning director of The Pianist was due to give a masterclass at the festival on Sunday.

However the timing of the arrest has puzzled observers, who pointed out Polanski had owned a property in Switzerland and made a number of visits prior to his detention. Indeed the director’s agent, ICM chief Jeff Berg, said the film-maker was in Switzerland this summer editing The Ghost.

Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer rejected suggestions that the arrest was political. Unsubstantiated online reports claim the incident may be a gambit by Switzerland to curry favour with US authorities in light of the unfolding tax evasion scandal involving the Swiss banking giant UBS and American account holders.

In a statement issued on Sunday Polanski’s attorneys said: “We were unaware of any extradition being sought and separate counsel will be retained for those proceedings.”

After Weinstein picked up international theatrical rights last January to the HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, which highlights legal irregularities in the case against the director, he intimated the film might play a part in getting the charges dropped.

Earlier this year a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge rejected Polanski’s attempt to do just that after the Polish director failed to appear in court in person, however the judge agreed there was “substantial misconduct” in the original hearing. An appeal is pending.

Polanski fled the US to France in 1978 after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, now 45-year-old Samantha Geimer, who subsequently sued the director for an undisclosed amount and earlier this year called on authorities to drop the case against him.