France rushes to Polanski’s defense

(AP) – Was Roman Polanski “thrown to the lions because of ancient history?” That’s what the French culture minister says – though not everyone in France agrees.

The French government has rushed to the filmmaker’s defense since he was arrested this weekend in Switzerland on a U.S. warrant in connection with his guilty plea to having having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Government ministers and France’s cultural world have lauded Polanski as a great artist, a family man and a survivor of countless hardships who deserves peace at age 76.

Polanski, who has dual French and Polish nationality, has long been protected by France’s refusal to extradite its citizens.

Few, if any, prominent figures came out publicly against Polanski, but there were signs that many ordinary French people disagreed with the government’s position.

Many newspaper readers responded with angry comments on the newspapers’ Web sites lashing out at France’s government and cultural leaders. One comment in Le Figaro read: “Our so-called intelligentsia lacks modesty, restraint and impartiality when one of its own has behaved badly.”

His early life was marked by tragedy – his mother died at Auschwitz during the Holocaust, and his second wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson. She was eight months pregnant.

Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, who identified herself publicly years ago, has joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.

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