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Asociación contra la Fábrica de culpables y por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos

 

Victim Of A Dysfunctional System': French Citizen Florence Cassez Released From Mexican Prison After Legal Missteps

Source: International Business Times

By

January 29 2013

The release of a French woman accused of being involved in a criminal organization and a kidnapping in Mexico has set off a wave of criticism against the Mexican justice system.

(Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)
Florence Cassez spent 7 years in a Mexican prison without ever being pronounced guilty.

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Florence Cassez, who was sentenced in 2007 to 60 years in prison on kidnapping charges, was released last Wednesday after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that her rights had been violated.

Cassez was denied consular assistance for more than 24 hours after being arrested, in violation of the Vienna Convention, and was forced by Mexican authorities to re-enact her arrest on live television during that period.

The first violation was grounds enough to throw out Cassez’s case, with the second instance casting further doubt on the fairness of her trial due to its disregard for her presumption of innocence.

“[My release] is a great victory for Mexicans,” Cassez told reporters after her release, according to the BBC.

Cassez has maintained her innocence over the past seven years, saying she was unaware of the three hostages being held at a ranch where she was staying with her then-boyfriend in 2005.

Despite the legal missteps in her case and Cassez’s repeated claims of innocence, many in Mexico have protested her release, viewing it as a miscarriage of justice and an instance of preferential treatment for a foreigner.

“We are a disgusting country,” said Ezequiel Elizalde, who was previously kidnapped by “The Zodiacs” gang, of which Cassez was accused of links, the BBC reported. “”Must we now walk around carrying arms like vigilantes?”

Cassez was welcomed back in France, where she met with President Francois Hollande, whose government had lobbied for her release, carrying on efforts taken up by the previous administration of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Cassez said she understood some people’s frustration with her release, but maintains that she was a “victim” of a dysfunctional justice system.

“It is clear that the Cassez case is only a symptom of a police and judicial system which is showing major cracks and is in profound need of repair,” wrote legal expert Miguel Carbonell of the Autonomous University in Mexico City, the BBC reported.

“Florence Cassez may now be safe from this dysfunctional system, but more than 110 million Mexicans continue to be exposed to all manner of mistreatment at the hands of the police, the public prosecutors and the judges, either as victims of crime or as the accused,” he added.

The truth behind Florence Cassez’s story lost in a corrupt Mexico

From: VOXXI

January 29, 2013

By Phillippe Diederich Mexico

French citizen Florence Cassez was arrested in 2005 and convicted of helping her Mexican then-boyfriend run a kidnap gang. A court ordered Cassez released because of procedural and rights violations during her arrest.

When a Mexican court released Florence Cassez, the French citizen who had been accused, convicted and imprisoned as part of a kidnapping ring in 2006, it set Mexicans in an uproar. For many, it was the same as releasing a major drug cartel leader, or a crooked politician. Despite the fact that the court had decided the evidence and the method of Florence Cassez’s arrest violated her rights, it didn’t matter to the public because this was Mexico. And Mexicans know you can’t trust the police, the judge or the politician. As a matter of fact, you can’t trust anyone. For most Mexicans, Cassez’s release smelled of fraud.

Mexico has long a history of crooked deals and corruption. Many cases have been won using torture and fake confessions, yet important crimes go unsolved. But for most Mexicans it seems the only ones immune to the corruption are the wealthy and foreigners.

A recent editorial cartoon in Mexico showed a lawyer pleading for his client’s case. The judge asked the lawyer where his client was from. When the lawyer mentioned a neighborhood in Mexico City, the judge told the lawyer his client was screwed.

Florence Cassez’s release one of many in Mexico

The law in Mexico is relative. Nobody trusts the powers that be. In March 1995, PRI presidential Candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was shot dead in Tijuana. There is a dramatic video of the shooting. But the man arrested and sentenced for the murder, Mario Aburto, claims he was tortured into the confession. The video shows a different looking man doing the shooting and being arrested. Even Colosio’s family does not believe Aburto killed the charismatic candidate.

Six months after Colosio’s assassination, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, former President Carlos Salinas’ brother-in-law and secretary general of the PRI, was murdered in Mexico City. Eventually, Salinas’s brother, Raul, was charged with the murder and sentenced to 27 years, but six years later he was pardoned and released. Nine years ago, another brother of Carlos Salinas, Enrique, was found dead in his car with a plastic bag wrapped around his head. The case remains unsolved.

But the Florence Cassez case is reminiscent of the Sofia Bassi case. Bassi was a beautiful Mexican socialite and painter who was convicted of killing her son-in-law, the count Cesare d’Acquarone, in Acapulco in 1966. Artists and intellectuals in Mexico, the U.S. and Europe came together to support Bassi, claiming Mexican authorities were corrupt and inefficient, and that the case was tainted. But the campaign backfired. Then Mexican President Diaz Ordaz stepped in, making this a personal cause. Diaz Ordaz was against Bassi and her supporters. He made sure she would not be pardoned, yet he allowed Bassi to live somewhat comfortably in the prison’s infirmary, receive visitors and paint.

Mexicans who followed the case of Florence Cassez are aware of all the irregularities in her case: The staged arrest, and the controversial testimony during the case. Typical Mexico. Last year members of the Mexican Supreme Court agreed that Cassez’s rights had been violated and Cassez was released from prison last week.

At the time of Cassez’s arrest, and the bust that brought Los Zodiacos—the kidnapping gang she was accused of being a member of—to justice, Mexico was experiencing an epidemic of kidnappings. Something had to be done. Many Mexicans were thrilled with the dramatic bust of the kidnapping ring, (brought to them live by Televisa and TV Azteca). Others viewed her arrest as a scapegoat for former President Felipe Calderon’s presidency.

 

Mexican Court Frees Woman Imprisoned in (alleged) Kidnapping

From : New York Times
By ELISABETH MALKIN
Published: January 23, 2013

MEXICO CITY — A Supreme Court panel in Mexico voted Wednesday to free a French woman serving a 60-year sentence for kidnapping, ending a case that has become emblematic of problems in the country’s opaque justice system and that has strained relations with France.

In voting 3-2 to free the woman, Florence Cassez, 38, the magistrates did not address whether she was guilty or innocent. What was clear, they said, was that her rights had been violated by a televised broadcast of what appeared to be her arrest and the liberation of three kidnapping victims at a ranch outside Mexico City in December 2005.

Authorities later acknowledged that the raid was staged, and that Ms. Cassez and her boyfriend at the time, Israel Vallarta, had been arrested the day before on a highway. They were held while the police set up the supposed raid, which was broadcast on national television.

Three kidnapping victims testified against her. But their testimony was inconsistent and two of them did not identify her at first.

She was released Wednesday night and left the country on a late-night flight for Paris, according to The Associated Press. Ms. Cassez’s plight had been portrayed by the French news media as the tale of an innocent woman imprisoned in a corrupt legal system.

Visiting French cabinet ministers came to see her in her cell. Carla Bruni, the former first lady of France, and Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of President François Hollande, sent gifts.

After the ruling, Mr. Hollande, in a televised statement, said, “Today we can say that between France and Mexico we have the best relations that can be established,” Reuters reported.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico said he would respect the Supreme Court’s decision. Mr. Vallarta’s case is still being decided in the courts, according to local news media reports. The episode set off an impassioned debate in Mexico. Reflecting widespread desperation over the authorities’ frequent failure to investigate crimes fully, victims’ rights groups argued that the testimony that convicted Ms. Cassez could not just be thrown out.

“Should a failure in the form leave aside the substance: if a person is guilty or not?” Maria Elena Morera, a respected anticrime activist, wrote in the site Animal Politico this week.

But scholars and civil rights groups said that the case represented the problems with a judicial system where witness testimony, often coerced, frequently substitutes for physical evidence and adequate investigation.

“Today anybody can be the victim of a process that is plagued by bad practices from the start,” Federico Reyes Heroles, an author, wrote in the newspaper Reforma.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, Miguel Carbonell, a constitutional lawyer at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, wrote on Twitter: “One thing is clear to everybody: the Mexican judicial system urgently needs improvement.”

Other articles : Herald Sun ; The Australian ; Global Post

Mexico’s top court mulls jailed Frenchwoman’s fate

From Expatica

January, 22nd 2013

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Mexico’s Supreme Court will decide Wednesday whether to give a path to freedom to a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping, in a case that strained diplomatic ties.

Florence Cassez, 38, has claimed her innocence ever since federal police staged her arrest in an operation shown live on national television seven years ago on December 9, 2005.

Cassez was accused of being involved with a gang of kidnappers known as the Zodiacs, allegedly run by her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta.

Mexican television showed police storming Vallarta’s ranch, where they arrested her and freed three hostages.

Interviewed on the spot by Televisa, the slight, red-haired woman looked stunned as she said: “I have nothing to do with this. I’m not his wife. I didn’t know anything!”

It was later revealed that Cassez had been arrested on a road hours before the raid.

Supreme Court Justice Olga Sanchez Cordero proposed this month that the top court cancel the sentence and send the case back to the court of appeals, which would be obligated to take into account the higher court’s conclusions in its new ruling.

According to Mexican media, Sanchez argued that the staged arrest was a violation of several constitutional rights, including presumption of innocence and consular protection.

Sanchez also wants most of the evidence thrown out, including the testimony of two of the kidnap victims, Cristina Rios Valladares and her son Christian Hilario Ramirez Rios, who mentioned Cassez for the first time two months after the operation (and after the fake rescue operation staged by the federal police had been revealed)

Her Mexican attorney, Agustin Acosta, said the appeals court would not have a deadline to rule but that it “should not take very long.”

“If the Supreme Court cancels her sentence, it would have to take into account the fact that she is a young woman who has already been in prison for seven years in the context of a sentence that was declared wrongful,” Acosta told AFP.

The lawyer said the court may also decide to order Cassez’s immediate release if a majority of justices vote that way. But a deadlock could send the case up to the full 11-member Supreme Court, where a decision would be less predictable.

The Supreme Court already examined her case last year, but the panel was split on whether to release her, even though four of the five justices them agreed that there were irregularities in the case.

Her treatment caused a diplomatic spat in February 2011, when Mexican authorities canceled a “Year of Mexico” cultural event in France after then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy tried to dedicate the festivities to Cassez.

After meeting with Mexico’s new President Enrique Pena Nieto in October, his French counterpart Francois Hollande said that he was confident the Supreme Court would “put an end to this painful situation.”

Cassez case: “The Case Went Back to the Court”

Translated from spanish  El Universal

By Ana Abinarte – translation: Pierre Lacour

January, 13th 2013

 

David Bertet, President of the Florence Cassez Association for the Defense of Human Rights, foresees that on January 23, when the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Nation cast its vote on Justice Olga Sanchez’s new proposal on Florence Cassez’ case -the French woman who was sentenced to 60 years in jail for kidnapping, organized crime and illegal possession of weapons- the five justices will let her free, and they will not be submitted to the pressure of the executive power.

Bertet considers that the situation is now different from that of last March, when [President] Felipe Calderón was in power and the project of Arturo Zaldívar to appeal for legal protection and to free her immediately, due to the constitutional violations to her detention and to the legal process, did not succeed, thanks to the pressure of the government.

“We have now a new situation, and what’s new is that Felipe Calderón is not here anymore. His henchmen, including the Director of the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI), Genaro García Luna, and Luis Cárdenas Palomino, are no longer part of the administration. We believe this will help Florence, because there will not be any pressure on the Supreme Court from [President] Enrique Peña Nieto, as there was during the Calderón administration,” said Bertet in a phone interview from Montréal (Canada.)

According to Bertet, “Mexico’s current President wants the Cassez’ case to be solved in the High Court, while Felipe Calderón did not want Florence to go back to [France] and did everything in his power to make sure it did not happen.”

Bertet also considers that as far as the French government –under socialist François Hollande- is concerned, there is no interference in the case and members of the government have stated that [Mexico’s] Supreme Court ought to do its work.

“It is true that François Hollande and Valérie Trieweiler have supported Florence as they did so for other prisoners jailed outside of France; they have done so in a more discrete manner and without prompting controversies as did Sarkozy,” added Bertet.

He said: “I think the case went back to Court, from where it should not have gone out…” and it is no longer a political and diplomatic problem between Mexico and France, but a judicial case.”

 

“Florence is calm”

Bertet has been a friend of Florence’s for a long time, and he talks to her several times a week. The last time was a few days ago, when she herself brought the topic of Olga Sanchez’s new project into the discussion, a project that purports to “review” her case, and could entail a new sentence that could be freedom.

“She is calm. I talked to her last week. She did not know yet the date of the trial; I found her very calm and confident that everything will turn out well,” Bertet explained.

About the new project of Olga Sanchez Cordero, Bertet said that she is seeking a compromise. “Setting her free would be right, as Justice Zaldívar requested it last time, but the judges did not favor voting for that option and the project did not move forward.”

“Now, we believe that the Sanchez Cordero’s option, which is similar to the previous request, is the right one,” he added.

 

The Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico (SCJN) will review again the Florence Cassez’ Affair in 23 January 2013

The Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico (SCJN) will review again the Florence Cassez’ Affair in 23 January

“The first chamber of the Supreme Court  will discuss on 23 January a new project concerning the Cassez’ case in which is proposed  grants to the French citizen an ‘’amparo para efectos” (A kind of Habeas Corpus which have the power of repeat the process), according sources of the judicial power”.

Mexico City, January /10/2013
Luz Gonzalez, El Universal

The first chamber of the Supreme Court of Mexico will discuss on January 23 a new project concerning the Cassez’ Case, in  which is proposed grant to the french citizen a habeas corpus with effects, according sources of the judicial power.

The French citizen met a condemnation of 60 years for kidnapping, result of a process in which were violated her rights, specially the set of fundamental rights which comprise thedue process of law, according the project of one of the supreme court’s judges, Arturo Zaldivar, issued in march, 21, 2012.

That project was rejected, even though 4 of the 5 judges agreed with the existence of violations of her fundamental rights. 3 of 5 were pronounced in favor of grant to her the habeas corpus but only two of them agreed in grant her the freedom.

The author of this new project, Olga Sanchez, on that occasion said: ‘’just the violation of her right to consular assistance was enough to order her freedom’’.

Source:

El Universal

Text translated by: Luis Vargas

Mexico court to hear jailed Frenchwoman’s case Jan 23

From :  Expatica

11/01/2013

Mexico’s Supreme Court announced Thursday that this month it will hear an appeal from a Frenchwoman serving 60 years in prison for kidnapping, in a case that sparked diplomatic tensions.

The five justices of the court’s first chamber will discuss the case of Florence Cassez, 38, who has always claimed her innocence, on January 23, the court’s spokeswoman Cristina Martinez told AFP.

Cassez was sentenced to six decades in prison in February 2011 over charges that she was involved with a gang of kidnappers known as the Zodiacs, allegedly run by her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta.

She was apparently arrested in Vallarta’s ranch in a December 2005 and three hostages were released.

The apparent police operation was broadcast live on Mexican TV, but the footage was eventually revealed to have been staged after her arrest, a stunt which her lawyers say tainted the case against her.

Her treatment caused a diplomatic crisis in February 2001, when Mexican authorities cancelled a “Year of Mexico” cultural event in France after then French president Nicolas Sarkozy tried to dedicate the festivities to Cassez.

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderon had publicly voiced his opposition to releasing Cassez But new presidents have since taken over in both France and Mexico.

After meeting with Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto in October, French President Francois Hollande said that he was confident the Supreme Court would “put an end to this painful situation.”

Pena Nieto, a 46-year-old lawyer who took office in December, said his country would “scrupulously” respect the decision taken by the courts.

The Supreme Court had already heard her case in March 2011 but only two justices voted for her release when three were needed.

On the same subject : France 24

Justice for Florence Cassez – Human rights activists demand justice in Cassez case

Source: Proceso December 12, 2012

Activists, academics, human rights proponents have published a spread in several newspapers demanding justice in the case against Florence Cassez, who was detained, jailed and condemned to 60 years in prison.

“The accusations against her were based on indefensible proofs, logically and juridically speaking. Also, Florence Cassez was violated in her right to receive a due process, leaving her in a state of defenselessness and proofs were fabricated against her from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (AFI) and the Federal Agency for Public Safety (SSPF),” cites the published document.

The spread was published in several nationwide newspapers are was signed by: Mariclaire Acosta, Director of Freedom House; José Antonio Caballero, researcher, CIDE; Miguel Carbonel, from the Institute of Legal Research at UNAM; and human rights activists Eduardo Gallo, Santiago Corcuera y Javier Sicilia, among others.

“The 60 year sentence against Florence Cassez is not based on proofs or facts that show her culpability beyond all reasonable doubt. It is a real shame for Mexican justice that she continues to be imprisoned.
We urge our Supreme Court to dictate soon the resolution than will put this grave injustice to an end,” says the documents.

Translation

Pierre Lacour
fearlessfathers.wordpress.com

Online petition to help find Olivier Tschumi, kidnapped in Mexico in 2010

 

 

Please visit by clicking here, firm and forward. Your support is important. It could happen to all of us.

 

David

(lorence Cassez Association for the Defense of Human Rights – Montreal (Canada)

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