Pete Norman
April 27, 2007 08:35 AM

Richard Gere has defended himself after a warrant was issued for his arrest for giving an Indian actress a kiss that a local judge deemed “indecent.”

“Kissing the girl on the cheek was nothing,” Gere, 57, said on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Thursday. “It was an AIDS event for truck drivers. It was the largest truck depot in South Asia. They were climbing on their trucks [cheering].”

During the public HIV-awareness event in New Delhi earlier this month, Gere took actress Shilpa Shetty, 31, in his arms, kissed her several times on the cheek and dipped her in a tango-style dance move.

Indians in several cities later protested and burned effigies of Gere, saying the kiss was an “indecent” act and “against Indian culture,” and on Thursday, Judge Dinesh Gupta issued an arrest warrant in the northwestern city of Jaipur, acting on a petition by a local lawyer.

Gere, who was on the Comedy Central show to promote his latest film, The Hoax, added that Shetty herself wasn’t offended by the kiss: “We went and had dinner afterwards and nobody said a word about this.”

The actor is a frequent visitor to India, where he has met with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama through his foundation. On Thursday, he hinted that the kiss controversy is politically motivated.

“There is a very small right-wing conservative party and they are the moral police in India and they do this quite often,” said Gere, who has long campaigned for AIDS awareness in the second most populated country on earth.

Still, the actor appeared unfazed by the arrest warrant. “I don’t know if anyone has gone to jail, but [a case like this generally] goes to a reputable court and is thrown out,” he said.

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