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Court to rule on overturning Frenchwoman's sentence

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2012-03-21

A Mexican Supreme Court will on Wednesday decide whether to release Frenchwoman Florence Cassez due to an irregularity in her trial proceedings. Cassez was sentenced to 60 years for kidnapping in 2009.

AFP - Mexico's Supreme Court on Wednesday votes on whether to release French woman Florence Cassez, sentenced to 60 years in prison for kidnapping, due to irregularities in her trial proceedings.

A proposal by Supreme Court Justice Arturo Zaldivar for the "immediate and absolute" release of the 37-year-old requires at least three out of five votes in the court's first chamber to be accepted.

Mexican authorities presented the 2005 arrest of Cassez and her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta as a spectacular success in the fight against rampant kidnappings.

But, in response to a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court, Zaldivar wrote in the March 7 proposal that the proceedings had been flawed.

He particularly criticized the police's role in a TV setup supposedly showing a "live" raid on a ranch to free three kidnap victims, in which journalists interrogated Cassez and her ex-boyfriend at the scene.

The raid actually took place hours after the suspects were detained elsewhere.

According to the Supreme Court justice, the reconstruction "totally damaged the proceedings," along with the failure to respect the presumption of innocence or to immediately present Cassez to consular and legal officials.

The consular argument is a sensitive one, since Mexico often defends its citizens in the United States on the same grounds.

The case has strained diplomatic relations between Mexico and France. Mexico's government even canceled a year of Mexican cultural celebrations in France after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would dedicate them to Cassez.

Families of kidnap victims have meanwhile expressed outrage at Cassez's possible release.

Cassez, who has spent more than six years in a Mexican jail, has denied any knowledge of the crimes and claims the authorities made an example of her.

 

Date created : 2012-03-21

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