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Polanski case sparks splits in Poland

world Updated: Sep 30, 2009 18:45 IST

Splits emerged on Wednesday in Poland's establishment over the detention of Franco-Polish film director Roman Polanski in Switzerland, as a wave of outrage subsided over his arrest on a US warrant.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk distanced himself from a move by Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who along with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner has written to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calling for Polanski to be freed.

"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 mustn't mix that with politics, or play the patriotic card," Tusk told reporters.

Many leading Polish cultural figures, however, remained solidly behind Polanski, who was detained Saturday as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival and is now battling extradition to the United States.

Renowned director Andrzej Wajda was steering a drive to gather signatures for a petition pressing Polish authorities to do more to help Polanski.

"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.

Fellow-director Krzysztof Zanussi caused a stir in Poland when he spoke out in Polanski's favour in strong terms.

"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.

Zanussi's comments were "scandalous", said Polish actor and journalist Joanna Szczepkowska, saying she would not sign the pro-Polanski petition.