Whoopi Goldberg defends Polanski

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Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg defends Polanski

Whoopi Goldberg has caused controversy by defending director Roman Polanski - who is set to be extradited to the US on rape charges from 1977 - while a group of more than 100 people in the film industry has signed a petition calling for his release from a Swiss jail.

Whoopi Goldberg has defended Roman Polanski, saying he did not commit "rape-rape".

The 'Rosemary's Baby' filmmaker was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, on Saturday (26.09.09) and faces being extradited to the US after he fled the country in 1978 after being convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, believing a judge would renege on a plea bargain deal and hand him a considerable jail term.

Whoopi has now caused controversy by suggesting Polanski's offence - which took place in 1977 - was not as serious as the court deemed it.

She said on US TV talk show 'The View': "It was something else but I don't believe it was rape-rape.

"He went to jail and when they let him out he was like, 'This guy's going to give me 100 years. I'm not staying.'

"We're a different kind of society, we see things differently. Would I want my 14 year old having sex? Not necessarily, no."

Whoopi's co-host on the show, Sherri Shepherd, vehemently disagreed with the 'Ghost' star's reasoning over Polanski's attack on Samantha Gailey, now known as Samantha Geimer.

She posted on her Twitter page: "Whew... long day at The View... two shows today... hot debate over the Statutory Rapist Polanski. 45 year old man plies a 13yr old w/drugs and Liquor and penetrates her w/o her consent is a RAPIST. We hunt down 75 year old Nazis. We must protect our children (sic)."

Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen are among a group of people in the film industry who have signed a petition objecting to the 76-year-old director's arrest.

More than 100 people - including Tilda Swinton, Monica Bellucci, David Lynch and Terry Gilliam - have put their names on the document, which calls for Polanski's release from the Swiss jail where he is currently being held.

The group - which is supported by France's Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers - said: "The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance... opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects.

"It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him."

The director's lawyers have made a legal petition asking the Swiss Criminal Court to release him from custody and block his extradition to the US. The legal team want Polanski - who has lived in Paris since fleeing the US and holds dual citizenship in Poland and France - to be allowed to post bail or be remanded on house arrest at the Swiss chalet he owns.

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