India's top court suspends warrant against Gere

March 15, 2008 7:19:01 AM PDT
Richard Gere is free to go back to India - and he may have a new reason to book a trip.

India's top court suspended an arrest warrant Friday against Gere, wanted for allegedly breaking public obscenity laws by kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at a public AIDS awareness event last year.

"Gere is allowed to come and leave. He can't be arrested," said Anil Grover, an attorney for Shetty, after attending the Supreme Court proceedings.

Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan and Justice R. V. Raveendran indefinitely stayed the arrest warrant issued against the actor last year by a court in the northwestern Indian city of Jaipur, Grover told The Associated Press.

Gere embraced and kissed Shetty on her cheek at the public AIDS awareness event in New Delhi on April 15 last year, prompting Hindu hard-liners to allege the pair had offended the sensibilities of India's traditionally conservative culture. Hindu activists filed three cases against Gere and Shetty last year, including one in Jaipur. apologized for any offense he may have caused, but he also said the whole controversy was manufactured by a small hard-line political party.

The 58-year-old Buddhist actor and longtime Tibetan supporter is a frequent visitor to India, promoting health issues and the cause of Tibetan exiles, tens of thousands of whom live in India.

As rioting erupted Friday in Tibet's capital of Lhasa, Gere said the protests led by Buddhist monks weren't unexpected.

"I'm saddened but I can't say I'm surprised," the actor told The Associated Press in an interview. "You can't repress the people to the extent that Tibetans have been repressed for the last six decades now and not expect that at some point that it will explode."

The official Xinhua News Agency said Saturday that seven people have been confirmed dead in rioting. Eyewitness accounts and photos posted on the Internet portrayed a chaotic scene in Lhasa, with crowds hurling rocks at security forces, hotels and restaurants. The U.S. Embassy said Americans had reported gunfire.

"One would think that as China becomes the country that they supposedly want to be - a world power, respected - that in fact everything has tightened inside of Tibet," he said.

"The lack of opportunities for Tibetans in general - the lack of education, the destruction of culture and language, the inability to practice their religion - these are the things that make people crazy. And Tibetans are the most nonviolent people on the planet. For them to get to this point you know how bad it has been for them."