France - Mexico

No release for French kidnap woman jailed in Mexico

Florence Cassez is five years into her 60-year prison sentence.
Florence Cassez is five years into her 60-year prison sentence. Reuters

A court in Mexico has upheld the conviction of a French woman sentenced to 60 years in jail for kidnapping. France's foreign minister describes the decision as "a denial of justice" and has summoned the Mexican ambassador.


A Mexican appeals court ruled on Thursday that prosecutors had adequately proved that French national Florence Cassez participated in three kidnappings in 2005.

Cassez, 36, of Lille in northern France, has always denied any involvement. She says her former Mexican fiancé, Israel Vallarta, was responsible for the kidnap victims discovered at his ranch near Mexico City.

Her appeal was based on the claim that her original trial was biased after police broadcast her arrest on Mexican TV. Her lawyers maintain Cassez had been arrested the day before, and what was presented as a live raid was in fact a re-enactment for the benefit of the media.

But a panel of appeals judges ruled that the incident had no bearing on her conviction, since the television footage was not formally included in the evidence.

The lawyer representing Cassez, Frank Burton, believes the verdict to be politically motivated. He plans to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the US and the Inter-American court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, he told French magazine L'Express.

The judges' decision is "iniquitous", French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said on Friday.

Their "denial of justice" will have consequences for France's relations with Mexico, she warned, adding that she has summoned the Mexican ambassador in Paris.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry rejected Alliot-Marie's criticism, saying that Cassez had been given access to full legal defence and consular assistance.

The case has long been a source of tension between the two countries. In 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy asked his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon to allow Cassez to serve the remainder of her jail term in France, but the request was denied.

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