Polanski arrest sparks shock, outrage

28th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

France and Poland are to ask the United States to drop the charges and consider a presidential pardon over the case, Poland's PAP news agency said, though Polanski has already acknowledged he had sex with the 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977.

Paris -- Government ministers, movie directors, writers and intellectuals expressed shock and outrage Sunday after the detention of Oscar winning director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on three-decade-old child sex charges.

France and Poland are to ask the United States to drop the charges and consider a presidential pardon over the case, Poland's PAP news agency said, though Polanski has already acknowledged he had sex with the 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977.

Polanski, 76, was detained in Switzerland on Saturday as he arrived to attend the Zurich film festival, where he was due to receive a special award on Sunday.

Switzerland's Justice Ministry has said Polanski could be extradited following a US request for his detention.

Los Angeles prosecutors instigated the arrest of Roman Polanski after learning he planned to attend a film festival in Switzerland, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office told the newspaper that moves to detain the 76-year-old director after 31 years as a fugitive were set in motion last week.

Prosecutors forwarded an arrest warrant to the US Justice Department which then presented it to authorities in Switzerland, the paper reported.

There had been two previous attempts to nab Polanski when he planned visits to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.

But on each occasion "he apparently found out about it and didn't go," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told the paper.

Gibbons, who could not immediately be reached for comment, would not speculate when asked if Polanski was likely to serve time behind bars if he was eventually extradited to the United States.

"We've always maintained this is a matter between Polanski and the court. We initially recommended prison time for him, but I can't see into the future," she was quoted by the Times as saying.

Meanwhile, the Polish and French foreign ministers Radoslaw Sikorski and Bernard Kouchner discussed the arrest of the French-Polish national by telephone and agreed to make a joint approach to the US authorities, PAP reported.

They will ask US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton "to ask Switzerland to release Roman Polanski, detained pending extradition, and for her to envisage the possibility of a pardon from President Barack Obama," PAP quoted Sikorski as saying.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand condemned the arrest of the film-maker, who lives in Paris, and said he had discussed the matter with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mitterrand said he had "learned with astonishment about the process launched against Roman Polanski," his ministry said in a statement.

Sarkozy, "is following the matter with great attention and shares the hope ... of a quick resolution to the situation," the statement said.

Mitterrand told a press briefing that the arrest was "absolutely horrifying" and the case was "an old story which doesn't really make any sense."

"We know the conditions that this happened in, and while there is a generous America that we like, there is also a side of America which scares and that side has just showed us its face," he told reporters.

Questioned about the case in Warsaw, Poland's President Lech Kaczynski said he was "surprised" and that he wanted to speak with US officials about the case but added that they are "devilishly difficult" to deal with.

Polish film directors, led by Andrzej Wajda, an honorary Oscar winner, sent a letter to the Polish government calling for official help for Polanski saying that he faced a "judicial lynching".

Irina Bokova, incoming head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), called the arrest "shocking" in an interview with French television.

The Swiss film screenwriters and directors association, the ASSR, called the arrest "a judicial scandal which will tarnish Switzerland's reputation around the world."

Polanski has been working on a film version of "The Ghost" a political thriller by British writer Robert Harris, and Harris told Sky News television he was amazed by events.

"The warrant is 31 years old and Roman Polanski has a house in Switzerland. I have worked with him there two or three times in the last year or so.

"He has travelled freely throughout Europe and in Switzerland - filming has been based in Germany. He has just come back from a holiday in Greece.

"I'm amazed this should happen now, and I cannot begin to fathom what reason lies behind it."

AFP/Expatica

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