Photo: Roman Polanski at the 2006 Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco
(AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
PARIS (CBS/AP) Does France love child-rapists, Oscar-winning directors, or both?
According to one outspoken diplomat, the French criteria for prosecuting someone for child-rape depends on whether doing so would be "nice" and whether that person is a critically acclaimed director.
"A man of such talent, recognized in the entire world, recognized especially in the country that arrested him – all this just isn't nice," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in regard to the arrest of director Roman Polanski for the 32-year old rape of Samantha Geimer, who was 13 at the time.
To many here, the slap of American justice seemed particularly sharp as the arrest came as Polanski was entering Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival.
"To see him like that, thrown to the lions because of ancient history, really doesn't make any sense," French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said.
"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," Mitterrand continued.
Perhaps the minister was disturbed by the American judicial system's long memory and unforgiving statute of limitations.
In 1977, the director had pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for 42 days, but 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.
Polanski's French lawyers have stressed that the time allowed to persecute this crime in France would have expired long ago.
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