Poland is split over the fate of Polanski | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 30.09.2009
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Poland is split over the fate of Polanski

The detention of Polish-born film director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on a decades-old sex charge is causing ructions in Poland's establishment. Now the Polish PM has stepped into the ring.

Roman Polanski

Polanski's case is sparking a war of words in Poland

Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk called for restraint from his cabinet ministers on Wednesday, September 30, reminding them that the case is about "having sex with a child."

This after Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote, along with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calling for Polanski to be freed.

Facing grave charges

Donald Tusk

The Polish PM is trying to calm the debate

Polanski, who holds dual Polish and French citizenship, was arrested on Saturday, September 26, as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at the city's film festival. The US has been seeking his extradition for having sex with a 13-year-old in 1977.

"This case of course involved a leading Polish director, and dates back many years, but it's also about rape, and sex with a child. We must not mix that with politics, or play the patriotic card," Tusk told reporters.

Tusk said Sikorski's comments were motivated by "positive feelings towards a great artist."

High profile pro-Polanski campaign

Many leading Polish cultural figures, however, remain behind Polanski. Renowned director Andrzej Wajda is behind a drive to gather signatures for a petition pressing the country's authorities to do more to help Polanski.

Andrzej Wajda holding up award at film ceremony

Andrzej Wajda is calling for Polanski's release

"The events of 30 years ago and Roman Polanski's role in them were morally reprehensible. But we draw attention to the fact that Polanski's departure from the United States was simply a matter of escaping a judicial lynching," the petition said.

Polanski, now 76, pleaded guilty three decades ago to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He fled the United States in 1978 before sentencing and has never returned, even missing the Oscar award for "The Pianist" in 2003.

But fellow-director Krzysztof Zanussi's controversial comments in Polanski's favor have caused a stir. "If he (Polanski) wasn't a famous personality, the fact that he used the services of a teenage prostitute 30 years in Los Angeles, a city known for its free and easy morals, wouldn't have any impact today," Zanussi said in a television interview.

Defending the victim

US actress Debra Winger, the film festival's jury president of the Zurich Film Festival, speaks to the media in Zurich, Switzerland,

The arrest caused a storm at Zurich film festival

This has led to an outcry in some quarters. Polish actress and journalist Joanna Szczepkowska called the comments "scandalous," saying she would not sign the pro-Polanski petition.

And director Krzystof Krauze told the private TV channel N24 on Wednesday that the victim should not be made into the perpetrator.

He said the petition campaign had gone "too far." Krauze said that he was in favor of "a kind of pardon" for Polanski, but vehemently opposed a "moral acquittal."

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