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Helmer fires first salvo vs. Vanity Fair

Polanski claims he was victim of 'abominable lie'

LONDON — Roman Polanski, testifying on the first day of his libel suit against the publishers of Vanity Fair magazine, said Monday he was the victim of an “abominable lie.”

The helmer is suing publisher Conde Nast over a 2002 article that said he seduced a woman on the way to the funeral of his murdered wife, Sharon Tate, who was killed by followers of Charles Manson in Los Angeles in 1969.

Polanski called the Vanity Fair article “particularly hurtful because it dishonors my memory of Sharon.” He added, “That’s not the way I behave.”

He said his memories of the time immediately after Tate’s death are hazy. “I was sedated and dazed,” he said.

The magazine article accuses Polanski of “monstrous conduct by any bereft husband and father-to-be,” his lawyer John Kelsey-Fry said in an opening statement.

“It would demonstrate a callous indifference to what had happened and to his wife’s memory of breathtaking proportions.”

Polanski testified by video link from France, where he has lived since fleeing charges of sex with a minor in the U.S. in 1978.

The libel case went ahead after Polanski won a ruling from the House of Lords, Britain’s highest appeals court, saying he could testify by video link. Polanski was unwilling to come to Britain for fear of being arrested and extradited to the U.S., which has an extradition treaty with Britain.

The publisher is contesting the suit. Conde Nast is based in the U.S., but libel actions concerning the international media are often brought in British courts because they are considered friendlier to claimants than U.S. courts.

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