After outcry, France changes tone on Roman Polanski case

Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:07pm EDT
 
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By Yann Le Guernigou

PARIS (Reuters) - France's government changed its tone on Wednesday on the arrest of Roman Polanski for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, describing the charges as serious after initially rushing to the film director's defense.

France and Poland, where the 76-year-old Oscar-winning director spent his childhood, at first loudly protested against Polanski's arrest last weekend.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that it was for judges, not diplomats, to handle the case which dates back to 1977.

After French politicians across the spectrum initially voiced strong unease over the arrest, a government spokesman modified the official line on Wednesday, saying that Polanski was "neither above nor below the law."

"A judicial procedure is under way concerning a serious case, the rape of a minor, and the U.S. and Swiss justice systems are doing their work," spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

"On the other hand, there's emotion, and we can understand the emotion stirred up by this belated arrest, more than 30 years after the events, and the method of the arrest," he said.

Polanski, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of the United States when he flew into Switzerland on Saturday to receive a lifetime achievement prize.

France's political and artistic elite defended him, with Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand accusing the United States of showing a frightening face by seeking his extradition.   Continued...

 
<p>Polish director Roman Polanski attends a news conference for the film "Chacun son Cinema" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2007. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>