GOVERNMENT ministers, movie directors, writers and intellectuals have expressed shock and outrage after the detention of Oscar winning director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on three-decade-old child sex charges.
France and Poland are to ask the United States to drop the charges and consider a presidential pardon over the case, Poland's PAP news agency said overnight, though Polanski has already acknowledged he had sex with the 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977.
Polanski, 76, was detained in Switzerland yesterday as he arrived to attend the Zurich film festival, where he was due to receive a special award.
Switzerland's Justice Ministry has said Polanski could be extradited following a US request for his detention.
The Polish and French foreign ministers Radoslaw Sikorski and Bernard Kouchner discussed the arrest of the French-Polish national by telephone and agreed to make a joint approach to the US authorities, PAP reported.
They will ask US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton "to ask Switzerland to release Roman Polanski, detained pending extradition, and for her to envisage the possibility of a pardon from President Barack Obama", PAP quoted Mr Sikorski as saying.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand condemned the arrest of the film-maker, who lives in Paris, and said he has discussed the matter with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mr Mitterrand said he had "learned with astonishment about the process launched against Roman Polanski".
Mr Sarkozy, "is following the matter with great attention and shares the hope ... of a quick resolution to the situation," he said.
Mr Mitterrand said the arrest was "absolutely horrifying" and the case is "an old story which doesn't really make any sense."
"We know the conditions that this happened in, and while there is a generous America that we like, there is also a side of America which scares and that side has just showed us its face," he said.
Questioned about the case in Warsaw, Poland's President Lech Kaczynski said he was "surprised" and that he wants to speak with US officials about the case, but added that they are "devilishly difficult" to deal with.
Polish film directors, led by Andrzej Wajda, an honorary Oscar winner, sent a letter to the Polish Government calling for official help for Polanski, saying he faces a "judicial lynching".
Irina Bokova, incoming head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), called the arrest "shocking" in an interview with French television.
The Swiss film screenwriters and directors association, the ASSR, called the arrest "a judicial scandal which will tarnish Switzerland's reputation around the world".
Polanski has been working on a film version of The Ghost, a political thriller by British writer Robert Harris.
Harris told Sky News television he was amazed by events.
"The warrant is 31 years old and Roman Polanski has a house in Switzerland. I have worked with him there two or three times in the last year or so.
"He has travelled freely throughout Europe and in Switzerland - filming has been based in Germany. He has just come back from a holiday in Greece.
"I'm amazed this should happen now, and I cannot begin to fathom what reason lies behind it."
director Roman Polanski in Swiss custody!!!
FILM director Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland on a 31-year-old US warrant, AP reports.
Organisers of the Zurich Film Festival said Polanski was detained by police yesterday.
Zurich police did not immediately confirm the information to AP.
It is understood he traveled to Switzerland to receive a lifetime award for his work as a director.
Polanski fled the United States for France in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with an underage girl.
Polanski was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and drugs.
He insisted the sex was consensual but pleaded guilty to a single count of having sex with a minor, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Polanski spent 42 days incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation in 1978, but fled before sentencing because he became convinced the judge intended to send him back to prison, contrary to a plea agreement he had made with prosecutors.
A citizen of his native France, Polanski cannot be extradited but faces arrest if he sets foot back on US soil.
Vilified in the US media at the time, the director has earned a measure of sympathy in Hollywood and won an Academy Award for directing 2002's Holocaust drama "The Pianist."
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