France hails Polanski extradition rejection
France's government hailed Swiss authorities on Monday for rejecting a US request to extradite film-maker Roman Polanski on child sex charges.
Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a statement he was "delighted for Polanski's wife, (actress) Emanuelle Seigner, his children and his friends who have supported him with dignity and determination throughout an ordeal in which the attacks deeply affected them."
Mitterand was one of the first public figures to defend Polanski shortly after he was arrested in September 2009 and many in French intellectual and cultural circles spoke out in favour of Polanski.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement that he too was "delighted by the decision," adding that he had called his Swiss counterpart to express his "deep relief".
"The great Franco-Polish film-maker will now be free to rejoin his family and dedicate himself fully to his artistic activities," Kouchner said.
Polanski, 76, had been under house arrest pending the US demand for him to be sent to California to answer charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
His French lawyer Georges Kiejman also hailed the Swiss decision and hoped the director would one day return to the United States.
"I pay tribute to Swiss justice, its judicial analysis is very correct," Kiejman told AFP after Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf announced Polanski would not be extradited and could walk free.
"I think the misunderstanding with the American authorities will be easier to resolve and I hope that he will one day be able to return to the United States," Kiejman said.
One of Polanski's leading supporters in the case, the French writer-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy who had launched a petition in his support, told AFP he was "mad with joy" at the decision.
"I just spoke to him. He feels the same as the millions of citizens who supported him," Levy said. "He feels that justice has been done."
© 2010 AFP