French Offical Denounces Swiss Arrest of Director Roman Polanski

Oscar-winning director was arrested in Switzerland on 1978 U.S. warrant.

ByABC News
September 27, 2009, 11:21 AM

Sept. 27, 2009— -- The French culture minister has denounced the United States for the arrest of director Roman Polanski in Switzerland, saying it is a "terrible thing and very unfair."

"Seeing him alone, imprisoned while he was heading to an event that was due to offer him praise and recognition is awful, he was trapped," French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said at a news conference today. "In the same way there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America, that has just shown its face."

It's taken 31 years for U.S. Department of Justice to catch up with Polanski, 76, who was arrested soon after arriving in Switzerland for the Zurich Film Festival on a U.S. warrant stemmming from the 1977 statutory rape of a 13-year-old American girl.

The Academy Award winner has continued a fruitful career in Europe despite fleeing overseas in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse.

Polanski is known to frequent Switzerland and reportedly owns a chalet there.

Mitterrand said French President Nicholas Sarkozy is paying close attention to the the case and that the French consulate may try to visit with Polanski Monday if they are allowed.

"I'm offering my support to Polanski as a French citizen and as the minister for culture. Justice has been denied to him many times in his life, and beauty is something that he has brought though his films," he said, calling Polanski a "wonderful man" and "one of the greatest directors of all time." "If the world of culture does not offer its support to Polanski, then that would mean there is no more culture in this country."

According to The Associated Press, the Swiss Ministry of Justice released a statement following the arrest that Polanski, a French national, would not be extradited to the United States until the proceedings are completed and that he has the option to contest both his detention and any extradition decision.

Polanski's team of U.S. attorneys -- Douglas Dalton, Bart Dalton and Chad Hummel -- seemed surprised by the arrest.

"An issue related to the Swiss extradition matter is presently being litigated before the California Court of Appeal. We had hoped that this would be determinative of this case," they said in a statement to today. "We were unaware of any extradition being sought and separate counsel will be retained for those proceedings."

Jeff Berg, Polanski's agent with International Creative Management, told today that he would not be issuing a statement at this time and that the matter was in the hands of the director's Swiss lawyers.