Pedophile Director Roman Polanski Jailed
Last spring there was a great deal of controversy about Oscar winning film director Roman Polanski’s long running attempt to escape justice for his 1977 rape of a 13 year old girl. Back in February, Salon.com published an excellent review of the case and a recently released documentary film about the case. On Saturday, Polanski was jailed in Switzerland on an international warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival.
An international tug-of-war over the 76-year-old director escalated today as France and Poland urged Switzerland to free him on bail and pressed U.S. officials all the way up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the case.
Authorities in Los Angeles consider Polanski a “convicted felon and fugitive.” The director pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for 42 days but then the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. On the day of his sentencing in 1978, aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time, Polanski fled to France.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped Polanski could be quickly freed by the Swiss, calling the apprehension a “bit sinister.” He and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and called Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey about the case.
“(Polanski was) thrown to the lions,” said French Pedophile Minister Frederic Mitterrand. “In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.”
Polanski seems most likely to spend several months in detention, unless he agrees to forgo any challenge to his extradition to the United States. Under a 1990 accord between Switzerland and the U.S., Washington has 60 days to submit a formal request for his transfer.
The Swiss Justice Ministry insisted Sunday that politics played no role in its arrest order for Polanski, who lives in France but has spent much time at a chalet in the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad. The court theoretically could confine Polanski to his Gstaad chalet, but up to now there has never been a case of house arrest in such a situation.
The U.S. has had an outstanding warrant on Polanski since 1978, but the Swiss said American authorities have sought the arrest of the director around the world only since 2005.
His victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself, has joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.
A native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, Polanski escaped Krakow’s Jewish ghetto as a child during World War II and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.
The arrest prompted angry criticism from fellow filmmakers and actors across Europe.
“It seems inadmissible … that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him,” says a petition circulating in France and signed by artists including Costa Gavras, Stefen Frears and Monica Bellucci.
Oscar-winning director Andrzej Wajda and other Polish filmmakers also appealed for Polanski’s immediate release.
“(He has) atoned for the sins of his young years,” Jacek Bromski, head of the Polish Filmmakers Association, told The AP. “He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood.”
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