Cassez case: France awaits Mexican Supreme Court's ruling in

Frenchwoman is serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico for kidnapping

PARIS.-The French government is confident that the Mexican Supreme Court will throw out the 60-year prison sentence imposed on Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping in Mexico, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday.

"The situation now appears more favorable" for Cassez, Fabius told France Info radio.

The top French diplomat refused to comment further on the case, but he noted that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto told French President François Hollande during his visit to Paris last October that he wanted to remove the Cassez case as an issue in bilateral relations and leave it in the hands of the courts.

Peña Nieto visited France during a tour of Europe that he completed before taking office.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressured Mexico to transfer Cassez to a French prison to serve out her term, invoking the Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which Mexico signed in 2007.

The administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, however, insisted that the Frenchwoman - who received a 98-year prison sentence in 2008 that was subsequently reduced to 60 years - could not be repatriated due to the possibility that she might obtain a drastic reduction or suspension of her sentence in France.

Some of Sarkozy's statements about the Cassez case caused diplomatic tensions with Mexico, especially his call in February 2011 to dedicate the "Year of Mexico," a series of more than 350 art, cultural and business events scheduled to be held in France, to the jailed Frenchwoman.

Cassez's attorney, Agustin Acosta, said Tuesday that the Mexican federal law enforcement agency that arrested the Frenchwoman acted "in bad faith."

"This matter is marked, is sealed by the issue of the staging (of her arrest)," the attorney said.

Florence Cassez was arrested on Dec. 8, 2005, on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway along with her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the suspected leader of the Los Zodiaco kidnapping gang.

A day later, agents from the now-defunct AFI, Mexico's equivalent of the FBI, staged a mock raid so TV cameras could film the arrest of the gang members in a wooded area near Mexico City.

The re-enactment of the raid is among the irregularities in the case, making it seem as if Cassez was being arrested at that time, the Cassez family and attorneys have argued.

Cassez's situation appeared to take a positive turn in March 2012, when Mexican Supreme Court Justice Arturo Zaldivar urged her "immediate and unconditional" release in a draft opinion on the case.

The Supreme Court has stated that the extended delay in handing Cassez over to prosecutors also violated her rights.

The Frenchwoman has proclaimed her innocence from the beginning, denying that she participated in kidnappings.


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