French support for Polanski stirs unease
The French government and cultural elite's support for fugitive film-maker Roman Polanski triggered unease on Tuesday as dissenting voices said the convicted sex offender should answer for his crime.
Paris -- The French government and cultural elite's support for fugitive film-maker Roman Polanski triggered unease on Tuesday as dissenting voices said the convicted sex offender should answer for his crime.
Government ministers and many from France's entertainment industry have rushed to defend Polanski, who was arrested on Saturday in Zurich three decades after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand both sharply criticised US and Swiss authorities over the arrest, which came as the Franco-Polish director arrived in Zurich to receive an award.
Kouchner branded the Oscar-winner's arrest "sinister" and Mitterrand said it was "absolutely dreadful" that the case should return to haunt Polanski so long after the offence.
The French directors' guild and some press have lined up behind the politicians, but an association defending child rape victims and a handful of dissidents made the case against Polanski.
"Is it normal that a man in his 40s is having sexual intercourse with a young child of 13?" said Brigitte Bancel Cabiac of the children's aid organisation Enfant Bleu.
"This man may have indisputable talent but he is nevertheless subject to the rules of our society," she said.
In 1978, Polanski pleaded guilty in a Californian court to "unlawful sexual intercourse", which is the state's term for statutory rape, agreeing a plea bargain after the girl testified she had been drugged and sodomised against her will.
He did not wait to be sentenced, and fled to Europe. He now faces extradition to the United States, sentencing for the original crime and possible charges relating to his flight from justice.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, expressed surprise that Kouchner and Mitterrand, a nephew of the late President Francois Mitterrand, had been so quick to take Polanski's side.
Mitterrand said Sunday that Polanski, director of "Rosemary's Baby" and an Oscar winner for "The Pianist", had been "thrown to the lions over an ancient affair that doesn't make any sense."
To jail him, he added, was "absolutely dreadful."
Kouchner said: "This affair is frankly a bit sinister ... Here is a man of such talent, recognised worldwide, recognised especially in the country where he was arrested. This is not nice at all."
Marc Laffineur, a member of parliament and senior member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing party, said the two ministers had been "a little too quick" to rush to Polanski's defence.
"An accusation of raping a 13-year-old child is not a trival thing, regardless of the person suspected of having done that," said Laffineur.
US directors Woody Allen, David Lynch and Martin Scorsese have signed a petition protesting Polanski's arrest but another prominent film-maker, Luc Besson, refused to line up behind Hollywood's show of support.
"I have a lot of affection for him, he is a man that I like very much ... but nobody should be above the law," Besson told RTL radio.
"I don't know the details of this case, but I think that when you don't show up for trial, you are taking a risk, " he added.
Veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has called on Mitterrand and Kouchner to resign, saying he was shocked by the support given to "this criminal paedophile".
AFP / Expatica