The French are appealing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland with the possibility of extradition to the United States.
Polanski has been a fugitive since 1978, when he fled the U.S. after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl the year before.
The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sent a letter to Clinton following the arrest, presumably to demand his release. But State Department spokesman Philip Crowley was reluctant to step into the fray, telling reporters during the daily briefing today, "For the most part, I’ll defer to the – to California authorities and to the Department of Justice regarding this legal process.
"I mean, there will be a period of time, I think two months, for the state of California to make a formal extradition request. The role of the Department of State will simply be to review that request to make sure it meets the sufficiency in terms of our extradition treaty with Switzerland."
A group of 100 filmmakers, actors and other creative types have signed a petition demanding Polanski's release, and cite a recent event at the U.S. Embassy in France that was hosted by the new ambassador, Charles Rivkin, formerly the head of Wild Brain Media and the Muppets.
The group write, "On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries.
"If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski."