French authorities expressed solidarity with Roman Polanski’s family Monday after authorities arrested the filmmaker on a 1970s sexual-offense charge involving a 13-year-old girl.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped authorities would respect Polanski’s rights “and that the affair (will) come to a favorable resolution,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The French culture and communications minister, Frederic Mitterrand, said he “learned with astonishment” of Polanski’s arrest. He expressed solidarity with Polanski’s family and said “he wants to remind everyone that Roman Polanski benefits from great general esteem” and has “exceptional artistic creation and human qualities.”
Investigators in the United States say Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but he fled the United States before he could be sentenced and settled in France.
U.S. authorities have had a warrant for his arrest since 1978. Police in Switzerland arrested Polanski on that warrant Saturday after the 76-year-old tried to enter Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, which is holding a tribute to Polanski this year.
Mitterrand said he has spoken with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and that Sarkozy “shares his hope for a rapid resolution to the situation which would allow Roman Polanski to rejoin his family as quickly as possible.”
Mitterrand said he “greatly regrets that Mr. Polanski has had yet another difficulty added to an already turbulent existence.”
Polanski won an Academy Award for best director in 2003 for “The Pianist.” He was nominated for best director Oscars for “Tess” and “Chinatown” and for best writing for “Rosemary’s Baby,” which he also directed.
A spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry said Polanski was arrested upon arrival at the airport.
A provisional arrest warrant was issued last week out of Los Angeles, California, after authorities learned he was going to be in Switzerland, Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, told CNN on Sunday.
There have been repeated attempts to settle the case over the years, but the sticking point has always been Polanski’s refusal to return to attend hearings. Prosecutors have consistently argued that it would be a miscarriage of justice to allow a man to go free who “drugged and raped a 13-year-old child.”
The Swiss Justice Ministry said Polanski was put “in provisional detention.” But whether he can be extradited to the United States “can be established only after the extradition process judicially has been finalized,” ministry spokesman Guido Balmer said in an e-mail.
Gibbons said the extradition process will be determined in Switzerland, but said authorities are ready to move forward with Polanski’s sentencing process, depending on what happens in Zurich.
Polanski was accused of plying the then-teenage girl, Samantha Geimer, with champagne and a sliver of a Quaalude tablet and performing various sex acts, including intercourse, with her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson’s house. He was 43 at the time.
Nicholson was not at home, but his girlfriend at the time, actress Anjelica Huston, was there. According to a probation report contained in the filing, Huston described the teen as “sullen.”
“She appeared to be one of those kind of little chicks between – could be any age up to 25. She did not look like a 13-year-old scared little thing,” Huston said.
She said Polanski did not strike her as the type of man who would force himself on a young girl.
“I don’t think he’s a bad man,” she said in the report. “I think he’s an unhappy man.”
Polanski’s lawyers tried this year to have the charges thrown out, but a judge in Los Angeles rejected the request. However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza left the door open to reconsider his ruling if Polanski shows up in court.
Espinoza also appeared to acknowledge problems with the way the 76-year-old director’s case was handled years ago.
According to court documents, Polanski, his lawyer and the prosecutor thought they’d worked out a deal that would spare Polanski from prison and let the teen avoid a public trial.
But the original judge in the case, who is now dead, first sent the director to maximum-security prison for 42 days while he underwent psychological testing. Then, on the eve of his sentencing, the judge told attorneys he was inclined to send Polanski back to prison for another 48 days.
Polanski fled the United States for France, where he was born.
In the February 2009 hearing, Espinoza mentioned a documentary film, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” that depicts backroom deals between prosecutors and a media-obsessed judge who was worried his public image would suffer if he didn’t send Polanski to prison. The documentary was first broadcast in June 2008.
“It’s hard to contest some of the behavior in the documentary was misconduct,” Espinoza said. But he declined to dismiss the case entirely.
Geimer is among those calling for the case to be tossed out. She filed court papers in January saying, "I am no longer a 13-year-old child. I have dealt with the difficulties of being a victim, have surmounted and surpassed them with one exception.
“Every time this case is brought to the attention of the court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case.”
Geimer, now 45, married and a mother of three, sued Polanski and received an undisclosed settlement. She long ago came forward and made her identity public – mainly, she said, because she was disturbed by how the criminal case had been handled.