Is Polanski haunting the Strauss-Kahn case?

Comparisons between the legal troubles of the film director Roman Polanski and Dominique Strauss-Kahn are being made on both sides of the Atlantic. Could the case of Polanski - given sanctuary in France after fleeing sex charges in the US - have any impact on the fate of the IMF chief?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn in court The IMF chief was led into court in handcuffs

Prosecutors were among the first to draw parallels between the two cases, arguing in court on Monday that if Dominique Strauss-Kahn were to leave the US, France would be under no obligation to send him back to face trial.

"He would be living openly and notoriously in France, just like Roman Polanski," said chief assistant district attorney Daniel Alonso.

Judge Melissa C Jackson quickly dismissed the idea.

"I will note that Roman Polanski has nothing to do with this," she said. "I am trying to be objective, and I am not going to judge this individual on the basis of what happened with Roman Polanski."

Start Quote

Mr Polanski… lowered the odds that Mr Strauss-Kahn... will get bail in New York any time soon”

End Quote Jim Dyer New York Times

But many commentators, both in France and the US, continue to see the Strauss-Kahn case through the prism of the Polanski saga.

"Prosecutors say, plausibly, that Strauss-Kahn could easily hop on a plane to France and never be extradited and be a whole new… Polanski, over there," wrote Hamilton Nolan on the Gawker website.

Jim Dwyer in the New York Times noted French anger at the television footage of the IMF managing director handcuffed in court - and compared it to Polanski's appearances as a free man at the Cannes film festival.

"Year after year, the director Roman Polanski strolled the red carpet, smiling for the cameras, apparently unworried - and rightly so - that the French authorities would notice that he was a fugitive from justice in Los Angeles, where he had drugged, raped and sodomised a 13-year-old girl," he wrote.

He went on: "Mr Polanski… lowered the odds that Mr Strauss-Kahn... will get bail in New York any time soon."

French gloom
Roman Polanski at Cannes in 2002 Roman Polanski won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2002 for The Pianist

In the same newspaper, Stephen Clarke, author of a book, 1,000 Years of Annoying the French, speculated that if Mr Strauss-Kahn were convicted he would "someday return to France, publish his autobiography (which will, of course, be adapted for the big screen by Mr Polanski) and eventually be made a government minister. Minister of gender equality perhaps?"

French media tend to see the comparison between the two cases as an ominous sign for Mr Strauss-Kahn.

Columnist Hubert Coudurier in Le Telegramme.com asks whether the Americans will "make us pay for the Polanski affair", and a number of newspapers answer Yes.

"Justified or not, the comparison between the two cases could… have repercussions on the continuation of DSK's judicial troubles," wrote Pauline Tissot in L'Express.

Le Point quotes an unnamed French government source saying that the Polanski episode does not work in Mr Strauss-Kahn's favour.

"In the US they don't play around with sex cases, it's very aggressive," the source is quoted as saying.

"It's as though Dominique Strauss-Kahn were a war criminal, they won't let him go."

'Unconscious role'

Le Journal du Dimanche published an article on its website on Wednesday under the headline Polanski's Shadow, noting that a number of Polanski's French ardent defenders - including Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and the writer Bernard Henri-Levy - had entered the fray in support of Mr Strauss-Kahn.

The article quotes two of Polanski's lawyers, both interviewed on French radio stations.

One, Georges Kiejman, told France Info that the Polanski case was playing an "unconscious role" in the Strauss-Kahn drama.

The other, Herve Temime, told the radio station Europe 1: "One can understand [the parallel] on a factual, intellectual level, but it is unfortunate and very regrettable."

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