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Key testimony against Cassez 'obtained under duress'

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-06-04

A Mexican man who gave key testimony in the kidnapping case against Frenchwoman Florence Cassez said his statements were obtained though torture, according to court documents obtained by AFP. Cassez is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence.

The case against Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year sentence in Mexico on kidnapping charges, is unravelling by the day. Just weeks after police officials admitted her arrest had been staged for television cameras, court documents emerged on Thursday revealing that a key witness against Cassez had actually retracted his testimony, which he said was obtained under duress.

David Orozco, who was arrested in May 2009 for his alleged role in the kidnapping ring that Cassez and her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta were accused of leading, had named the pair as leaders of the criminal operation. But court records obtained by AFP reveal that Orozco subsequently told a judge that his statement against Cassez had been obtained “by means of torture”.

‘They told me what they wanted me to say’

In a document signed by Judge Eduardo Javier Saenz Hernandez, Orozco denied belonging to the gang of kidnappers or ever meeting Cassez or Vallarta, contrary to his previous, widely broadcast, public statements. “I didn’t do it, I don’t know these people”, read the record of his statement to the judge.

Orozco claimed he was kidnapped by masked gunmen who turned out to be policemen. He said they beat him, administered electric shocks, and threatened to kidnap his wife and son before forcing him to issue a televised statement against Cassez.

"They started to tell me what they wanted me to say, and gave me the names of Israel Vallarta and the French woman," Orozco reportedly said in his later testimony.

Flawed trial

“What’s important right now is to submit the elements which have emerged to the Mexican justice system”, Cassez’s lawyer, Augustin Agosta, told FRANCE 24 after the latest revelation.

“These arguments show how flawed the whole procedure was, full of backtracking witnesses and inconsistencies. We have to use them to prove that Florence Cassez did not receive a fair, balanced trial, in order order to obtain her acquittal”, added Agosta.

Cassez, 34, has always maintained her innocence. She was arrested in December 2005 at the home where several kidnap victims were found, and sentenced to 60 years in jail for kidnapping.

In March 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy lobbied for Cassez to return to France to serve out her sentence near her family. However, Mexican President Felipe Calderon rejected the possibility of her repatriation, which would have been very unpopular with Mexican public opinion.

Date created : 2010-06-04

  • MEXICO

    Police admit arrest of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez was staged

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