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France

Police admit arrest of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez was staged

Text by Guillaume LOIRET

Latest update : 2010-04-22

Mexican police have admitted that Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping in Mexico, was already in custody when she was arrested in front of TV cameras.

Mexican police have revealed that they staged the arrest of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping and currently serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico. Cassez, who has maintained her innocence since the start of the affair, was in fact already in custody when the police led the press to believe that her arrest, on December 9, 2005, was being made live in front of cameras.

FRANCE 24 asked Patice Gouy, RFI correspondent in Mexico for 30 years, to shed some light on the matter.

What was the point of staging this arrest?

Patrice Gouy: You have to put the staged arrest in the context of the moment: Florence Cassez’s arrest in December 2005 took place at a time when kidnappings were a major problem for the Mexican police. With roughly 500 kidnappings per year, authorities felt the need to make an example out of someone, and the case of Florence Cassez landed at the right time. The case allowed them to “prove” that gangs were becoming more and more international, and Mexican authorities felt that French consular officials in Mexico would not react firmly.

Could this revelation of a document from the Mexican Ministry of Justice admitting the staged arrest become an exit strategy for Florence Cassez?

P.G.: In any case, it’s the beginning of a solution. On the one hand, the document, which exists since 2007 and should have been submitted for the Frenchwoman’s appeal trial, proves the Mexican justice system’s lack of trustworthiness in a case already containing several inconsistencies and gaps in information. It also allows Cassez’s defence team to appeal the sentence before the Supreme Court and even to directly file a complaint against the Mexican police for falsification of documents. The way out for Cassez could ultimately be a trial in a final court of appeal, but for that she’d have to wait until President Felipe Calderon’s term ends (in 2012) and new judges are named.


Could this latest twist alter the opinion of Mexicans, who have been largely convinced of Cassez’s guilt?


P.G.: Calderon was in favour of Florence Cassez’s release, but in a country as nationalistic as Mexico it was out of the question to drop the case before the presidential election in 2006. Despite a shaky case, Mexicans were disgusted with all the kidnapping incidents and would not have understood a decision to let this one go. But today, things are different. This document [revealing the staged arrest] could initiate a shift in public opinion, and that’s where the role of the press will be essential. The Mexican press is traditionally very cautious, and even more so on television, but if the media switches sides in this case they can move public opinion toward a recognition of Florence Cassez’s innocence.

Date created : 2010-04-21

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