Ex French culture minister presses Swiss on Polanski

16th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former French culture minister Jacques Lang said Sunday that Switzerland could not extradite Roman Polanski to the United States, amid pressure from France over the filmmaker's fate.

Polanski is under house arrest in Switzerland pending Bern's decision on whether it should agree to a US warrant to send him to the United States for trial on a child sex case dating back to 1977.

Lang said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche that Polanski had already answered to US justice some 30 years ago, while a settlement had been agreed with the victim Samantha Geimer's family and she did not want the case reopened.

He also argued that US justice authorities had refused to communicate all their information to the Swiss in the extradition request.

"I cannot imagine that the Switzerland I love could deliver Roman Polanski to US justice under these circumstances," Lang said.

"The affair was considered closed. A judge has reopened the case in order to gain publicity on Polanski's back. That's contrary to the idea that Europe has of justice," he added.

The Polish-French director was arrested in Zurich in September 2009 on the controversial US warrant, and was eventually confined to his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad while he fights extradition.

Swiss authorities said this week that they were still waiting for more information from the United States before they can make a ruling.

Swiss President and Economy Minister Doris Leuthard's office revealed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had inquired about the state of the extradition proceedings during a phone call late Friday.

Current French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand was one of the first public figures to defend Polanski shortly after he was arrested. Polanski's French led defence team have stepped up calls for his release.

Polanski, now 76, is alleged to have given 13-year-old Samantha Geimer champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson's home before having sex with her despite her protests.

Lang said he was against all acts of violence and any privileged treatment, but argued that Polanski should not be a victim of his fame either.

New allegations emerged Friday after British actress Charlotte Lewis claimed Polanski "forced himself" upon her just after her 16th birthday, about 26 years ago in his Paris apartment.

"It's evidently a new manipulation," Lang responded.

Support for the former Oscar winner emerged from the Cannes Film Festival this week.

© 2010 AFP

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