Along with the great many reactions of anger we received in support of Roman Polanski, we also received several reactions hostile to the position taken by SACD.
Generally speaking, these reactions do not take into account the petition’s actual content, which is why I would like to make these clarifications.
We have never claimed that Roman Polanski is innocent.
What he did in 1977 is unacceptable and, at the time, he himself pleaded guilty. As a result, he spent several weeks in prison and agreed to be treated in a clinic for sex offenders. It was only in the face of the contradictory, exorbitant statements by the federal judge in charge of the case that he chose to flee the United States.
Let us simply recall - and, once again, this is in no way an excuse for his misdeed - that, subsequently, the judge publicly recognized that he had undertaken a personal campaign in the context of his election. We must remember that he had gone so far as to talk of sentencing Roman Polanski to a fifty-year prison term. We can also state that this judge used Roman Polanski’s celebrity and reputation for his own glory. And most of all, we must recall that he was taken off the case because of his obvious mishandling of the situation.
We are not judges; it is not for us to condemn or clear anyone of these serious charges.
We deem it fundamental, however, to express our indignation at the use of a cultural event as a trap for a high-profile operation putting justice in the limelight.
On the one hand, film festivals have always been extraterritorial venues. Thanks to this principle, dissidents of all kinds, sometimes political activists facing arrest in their own countries, have been able to attend them freely to present their works. So far, no one had ever been arrested for accepting a public invitation for a festival. What can we say, now, if others, for whatever reason, repeat this situation? We can fear that a precedent has been set, with serious consequences for freedom of expression.
On the other hand, Roman Polanski often went to Switzerland, where he has a house. This is why we can only wonder about the reasons that led Swiss justice to arrest him in those circumstances, in an operation that attracted tremendous media attention, something particularly revolting for us.
It is not a matter of “rich and affluent” people or “celebrities” defending one of their own. In fact, it is the opposite. Who can claim that what just happened to Roman Polanski could ever have happened to an anonymous fugitive from justice? Would an unknown man on the street have been arrested in such a spectacular way when he was not trying to hide, for offences committed thirty-two years ago, which means they are subject to the statute of limitations in the country - France - of which he is now a citizen, and while the victim herself began asking long ago that all prosecution be stopped?
It is only for war crimes and crimes against humanity that there is no statute of limitations. This is because legislators considered that these were the only crimes for which there could be no pardon or redemption.
It is because we are convinced that justice should be the same for everyone; it is because we believe that justice should not be a performance whose initiatives can vary according to the media hype they attract, and also because we consider that people change and that, after 32 years, all justiciable persons may have made amends, that we request Roman Polanski’s release.
Jacques Fansten, President of SACD
My reply is beneath the cut.
Thank you for this clarification. It is worse than I thought. The sense I get from this letter is of a pouting, spoiled child, who thought he could get away with flaunting the rules because he is so special -- only to find out he is no different from anyone else. Your sense of entitlement is astonishing.
I wasn't aware that cultural events were spaces where people could or should not be held accountable for their crimes. Those of you involved in "cultural events" must think yourselves to be more important than even I realized. How amazing that you are so special that you can freely move about through art and film exhibitions of every kind without fear of arrest for crimes, even those you have admitted committing. I really had no idea you felt yourselves to be so entitled, or that others regularly support this practice of injustice, elitism, and double-standard. I suppose some of us are more equal than others.
I assume that an "unknown man on the street" wouldn't have been able to live the life of luxury and acclaim that Roman Polanski has while being a fugitive from justice. It would be impossible, then, for this "unknown man on the street" to be arrested in any kind of "spectacular" way, since the life he lived was not "spectacular" as was Roman Polanski's. Perhaps if Roman Polanski didn't feel himself so free to live "spectacularly," he would be more like your "unknown man on the street." The only injustice done to Roman Polanski is that he was allowed to live such a life for so long, all the while feted and supported by people like you.
I am very sorry to learn of know the truth of what you are and what you believe yourselves to be. I see that artists, too, fall prey to the same corruption that befalls many people who find themselves with too much money and very little connection to what lies outside their parochial, insulated world of privilege. Very sad, indeed.