- Florence Cassez - France - justice - Mexico
Justice to argue rights of jailed French woman may have been violated
A Mexican Supreme Court justice will argue that Florence Cassez, a French woman sentenced to serve 60 years behind bars in Mexico for kidnapping, should be released because her rights were violated, according to a court opinion released Wednesday.
AP - A Mexican Supreme Court justice will argue that a French woman serving a 60-year sentence for kidnapping should be released because authorities violated her rights, according to a written opinion released by the court on Wednesday.
The opinion by Justice Arturo Zaldivar now must be discussed and voted on by a five-justice panel of the court, and no date has been set for that discussion.
Zaldivar’s opinion comes after a lingering diplomatic dispute between France and Mexico over Florence Cassez, who was arrested in 2005 and convicted of helping a kidnapping gang allegedly led by her boyfriend.
Cassez has denied any involvement in the abductions, though she lived at the compound on the outskirts of Mexico City where victims were held in outbuildings. She said she was unaware of their presence.
Zaldivar wrote that Mexican police violated her right to consular assistance, because they failed to immediately notify French consular officials of Cassez’s arrest.
That is a sensitive point, since Mexico has often defended its citizens in the United States on the same grounds.
The opinion also notes that police took Cassez to the scene of the kidnappings for a re-enactment of her detention, when she should have been brought before a court. Police have said the re-enacted the detention to allow news media to tape it.
“These violations completely affected the trial process, in as much as they had a devastating effect on other fundamental rights, such as the right to be presumed innocent and the right to an adequate defense,” Zaldivar wrote.
The Supreme Court appeal, filed a year ago by Cassez’s lawyers, is her final legal recourse in Mexico. But any voiding of her conviction would be a serious setback for the Mexican government, which has repeatedly defended her arrest and rebuffed requests by France that she be returned to her home country.
Cassez’s attorney, Agustin Acosta, said it’s very likely the Supreme Court will rule her way on March 21, the scheduled date for the justices to meet.
“There is finally, finally, finally, a light that brightens the dark 6-year tunnel Florence Cassez has gone through,” he said.
Acosta said he spoke to Cassez “She has been quiet, but she is clearly hopeful.”