27 September 2009
Will Polanski finally face the music?
I go to the BBC website find out who won the Singapore Grand Prix (Lewis Hamilton by the way) and I see the headline that Roman Polanski has been taken into custody in Switzerland on a 31-year-old US arrest warrant.Polanski was detained on yesterday as he arrived in Switzerland to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.
The Swiss justice ministry said he was being held ahead of a possible extradition to the US for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Mr Polanski fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to the charges. In recent years, he has tried to have the rape case dismissed, but a US judge formally rejected his requests in May. He claims the original judge, who is now dead, arranged a plea bargain but later reneged. Earlier this year, Judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the judge in the original case, but said Mr Polanski must return to the US to apply for dismissal.
Mr Polanski's lawyers said he would not return to the US because he would be immediately arrested as a fugitive. The victim, Samantha Geimer, has previously asked for the charges to be dropped, saying the continued publication of details "causes harm to me, my husband and children".
The Swiss justice ministry said on Sunday that Mr Polanski was being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US government related to a 1978 arrest warrant. He will not be sent to the US until extradition proceedings were complete, the ministry added.
Polanski has not set foot in the US for more than 30 years. He has even avoided making films in the UK for fear of extradition.
France's culture minister said he was "dumbfounded" by Mr Polanski's detention in Switzerland. Frederic Mitterrand said he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them". He added that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "following the case with great attention and shares the minister's hope that the situation can be quickly resolved".
The organisers of the Zurich Film Festival said Polanski's detention had caused "shock and dismay," but that they would go ahead with a planned retrospective of the director's work. A special ceremony is planned for Sunday night "to allow everyone to express their solidarity for Roman Polanski and their admiration for his work," festival managers said in a statement.
Polanski is a superb director, there is no doubt, but he fucked a 13 year old after plying her with alcohol and drugs. He has spend the ensuing three decades avoiding the consequences of his crime. Had it been an electrician or the guy who cleaned the swimming pool I’m sure the people who are “shocked and dismayed” at his arrest would have been baying for his blood.
Personally I hope he is returned to the US and serves an appropriate sentence. Artistic merit is not relevant in this case. Frederic Mitterand wouldn’t be dumfounded the next time a child rapist is arrested in France, he and those who can’t accept that a great director should be punished for his acts should stick his crocodile tears where the the sun doesn’t shine.
Wil he actually face punishment for his crime? Sadly I don't hold out too much hope.