Polanski family and supporters hail filmmaker's release
Family and friends of director Roman Polanski joined the governments of France and Poland Monday in hailing a decision by Swiss authorities to throw out a US request to extradite the director.
His wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, welcomed the "end of a nightmare" after Bern declared the 76-year-old a free man having refused to send him to the United States over a child sex case dating from 1977.
"It is with great pleasure that I have just learned of my husband's release. For me and for my children it is the end of a nightmare that has lasted more than nine months," said Seigner, 44, who has two children with Polanski.
"I am really looking forward to being able to make plans and to once again have a normal family life, especially with my children, who did not deserve this suffering," she added in a statement.
The Swiss government said it would not extradite him due to a "fault" in the US extradition request relating to whether Polanski had already served his sentence in the United States and said it could not appeal the decision.
The director admitted plying 13-year-old Samantha Geimer with champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood home of actor Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he was "delighted" for Polanski, a dual Franco-Polish citizen, saying his wife, children and friends "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".
Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski thanked his Swiss counterpart Micheline Calmy-Rey in a phone conversation for the "prudent decision" to release Polanski, a dual French-Polish citizen.
"A solution was found which takes into consideration the complicated legal terms of this case and the life situation of Roman Polanski," a Polish foreign ministry statement said.
The US State Department said it was "disappointed" by the decision and vowed to pursue the case.
"The rape of a 13-year-old girl by an adult who should know better and does know better is a crime," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
Amid fears the case could harm Swiss-US relations, the Geneva-based daily Le Temps said the decision "spares both parties from disgrace."
"The relationship between Switzerland and the US is good. Many in Switzerland thought that the UBS case would lead to bad feeling in the United States," the paper wrote, referring to a US tax fraud case against Switzerland's biggest bank.
"That is exaggerated," the paper said, noting that on the Polanski case, "there will be a couple of commentaries but then it will be forgotten."
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."
In Warsaw, Jacek Bromski, head of Poland's film directors' association, said it was "very happy news, but there's also bitterness over the months of life taken from Roman."
Andrzej Serdiukow, the Polish co-producer of "The Pianist", for which Polanski won an Oscar, said it was a "great joy" for the director's friends as his morale had been low recently.
Polanski was born in Paris in 1933 into a Polish-Jewish family and moved to Poland in 1936 where he survived the Holocaust and made his first films before moving to France in 1961, then briefly to Britain and the US by 1968.
© 2010 AFP