Mexico judge proposes Florence Cassez release

BBC NEWS

March, 7th 2012 

Florence Cassez behind bars, file picture

A Mexican Supreme Court judge has said that Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, who is serving a 60-year sentence for kidnapping, should be released.

Judge Arturo Zaldivar argued that Ms Cassez, 37, had been denied her consular rights and the right to be presumed innocent.

His proposal for her “immediate and absolute” release will now be considered by a panel of five judges.

The case has caused diplomatic friction between Mexico and France.

Florence Cassez was arrested in 2005 at a ranch near Mexico City where three kidnapping victims had been held for two months.

Judge Zaldivar’s recommendation that she be freed is based on how she was treated after her arrest.

In a motion presented to the Supreme Court, he says police violated her rights by failing to notify the French consulate and failing to present her to investigative officials.

TV montageHe also notes that – the day after she was detained – police staged a re-enactment of her arrest and the rescue of the kidnap victims for the benefit of the media.

The footage was shown on Mexican television as if it were a genuine raid.

The judge argued that this montage created the impression that she was guilty and may have influenced the testimony against her from the police and kidnap victims.

It is not certain when the Supreme Court will hear her case, but her lawyer told the French AFP news agency/

Ms Cassez has always denied any knowledge or involvement in the kidnappings.

She maintains that her only connection with the case was that she was the girlfriend of one of the kidnappers.

In France, she is widely considered the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been among those questioning her conviction and calling for her to be returned home.

In 2010 a year of Mexican cultural events in France was cancelled after Mr Sarkozy suggested it be used to highlight her case.

The News Station – 16 wnep

MEXICAN JUDGE SEEKS TO FREE JAILED FRENCH WOMAN
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican Supreme Court judge has proposed freeing a French woman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping, though his motion needs the backing of at least two others on a five-member panel determining her fate.Judge Arturo Zaldivar said in his motion that Florence Cassez, 37, was denied her rights, not given a fair trial, and that witness statements used to convict her of kidnapping and other crimes in 2008 were unreliable.

The case has caused tension between France and Mexico.

Zaldivar’s motion centers on a filmed recreation showing police freeing kidnapping victims and arresting Cassez and others who were portrayed as members of a gang called the Zodiacs. The video was shot after her arrest in Mexico City in late 2005 and aired on television as a real raid.

Federal police said the Zodiacs were led by Cassez’s Mexican boyfriend at the time and that she was a member of the gang.

In his motion, Zaldivar also noted that Cassez was not offered consular assistance or put in front of a prosecutor immediately after the arrest.

“Consequently, the motion establishes there was a violation of the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence of Cassez,” the Supreme Court said in a statement. “A supposed recreation of things that never took place without doubt had an impact on public opinion and on all those linked to the trial.”

The case sparked a furor in France, where many see Cassez as a victim of injustice.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking a second term in an April 22 election, has promised Cassez’s parents that

he will seek justice in the case and is asking Mexico to transfer her to a French prison. That request has been denied.

The five Mexican Supreme Court judges will vote on the motion within two weeks, an official at the court said. A vote of three judges will be enough to free Cassez.

“This motion gives us a ray of hope,” Cassez’s defense lawyer, Agustin Acosta, told Reuters. “The case is very clear. I am sure the court will free her.”

Some Mexican anti-crime activists have opposed her release, arguing that a message must be sent to kidnappers and France should not meddle with Mexico’s justice system.

Mexico has seen kidnappings for ransom, in which abductors often torture and mutilate victims, spiral out of control in recent years.

In 2011, Mexico canceled a year-long series of films and performances in France after Sarkozy said the events would be dedicated to Cassez.

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