- Florence Cassez - France - Mexico - Nicolas Sarkozy
Florence Cassez, a 34-year-old French woman jailed in Mexico for kidnapping, will serve her 60-year sentence in Mexico, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Monday. Her plea to be repatriated to serve the sentence had been backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mexico's ambassador to France, Carlos de Icaza, told FRANCE 24 that this was a legal matter, not a political one. "There are no conditions to offer a transfer... Mexican law does not authorise lowering sentences in some cases. Kidnapping and murder have the same prison sentence in Mexico."
During an earlier official visit, Sarkozy had asked Calderon to consider letting Cassez serve her sentence in France.
The detainee’s family and her lawyer claimed that the International Strasbourg Convention, signed by Mexico, would allow Cassez to be transferred to a French jail. At French insistence, Mexico set up a committee of legal experts from France and Mexico to study the transfer.
Calderon said Monday that the committee had determined that it was impossible to return Cassez to France under the convention.
The Zodiac gang
Cassez was arrested in December 2005, when police launched an assault on a ranch where three people were being held hostage. The victims, including an eight-year-old girl, were being held for ransom.
She was caught with her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, whom Mexican justice considers the head of the “Zodiac” kidnapping gang.
Cassez said she was never aware of her ex-boyfriend’s criminal activities. She met him in 2004 while working in a hotel in Mexico, she said, where Israel Vallarta introduced himself as a car salesman.
Another gang member arrested on May 5, David Orozco Hernandez, said that the French woman was actually a leader of the “Zodiac” gang and actively took part in kidnappings and retrieving ransoms.
Calderon is under popular pressure to crack down on kidnappings, a lucrative activity for criminal gangs in Mexico, where 8,000 people are kidnapped every year.
Several Mexican politicians and the news media have expressed outrage at the prospect of French authorities’ further cutting Cassez’s jail term, saying it would send a message of leniency to foreign criminals.
Cassez was initially sentenced to 96 years in jail, but a Mexican appeal court cut her term to 60 years.