22 years after he was first accused of having sex with an underage girl, Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland, from where he now faces deportation to the US. He was travelling to the Zurich Film Festival to collect a Lifetime Achievement Award when the arrest took place.
The incident that started it all took place in 1977, when Polanski, who was due to edit an edition of Vogue, arranged to take photographs of 13 year old Samantha Gailey. The second photoshoot took place at the then home of Jack Nicholson (who was absent at the time) and involved Gailey drinking champagne. Following this, a series of sexual acts took place. Polanski, who was 44 at the time, subsequently confessed to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor but denied charges of rape. It was later argued that the judge presiding over the case, who has since died, had agreed to a plea bargain but reneged on the deal, creating a legally dubious situation. Polanski was charged with rape and fled to Europe where, as a dual Frech-American citizen, he was able to take refuge in Paris.
"I think he knows what he did to me was wrong," said Gailey subsequently. "I don't think he's a danger to society. I don't think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out - besides me - and accused him of anything." She has asked for the case to be dropped as ongoing publicity causes problems for her family.
"I'm absolutely shocked and stunned by his arrest because we have worked together extensively in Switzerland, where he has a home," said author Robert Harris, who is currently working with Polanski on a film called The Ghost. "If he was such a wanted criminal why did they let him own a house and travel back and forth freely? It is hard not to believe that this heavy-handed action must be in some way politically motivated and I hope that the Swiss authorities will release him as soon as possible."
I strongly regret that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them," said French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand. "President Sarkozy is following the case with great attention and shares my hope that the situation can be quickly resolved".
The organisers of the Zurich Film Festival have expressed shock and dismay.