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.


France’s first lady sends chocolates to Florence Cassez in Mexican jail

Source : The Guardian

Monday 8 October 2012
Florence Cassez

Florence Cassez was jailed for 60 years in 2009 after being convicted of being part of a kidnapping gang. Photograph: AFP

France’s first lady, Valérie Trierweiler, has used diplomatic channels to send presents to a French woman who was jailed for 60 years in Mexico after being convicted of kidnapping.

Books, beauty products and chocolates were sent to Florence Cassez in jail last week, according to Le Parisien newspaper, which says Trierweiler will send a similar parcel every month until she is freed.

Struggling to find a role in a position that does not formally exist, Trierweiler’s choice of worthy cause will find favour in France, where Cassez is widely viewed as a victim of Mexican injustice. Even the opposition will find it hard to criticise her choice; the former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s public support of Cassez triggered a diplomatic spat between France and Mexico.

“It’s a precious gesture that Florence much appreciated,” Jean-Luc Romero, president of Cassez’s support committee. “Pressure from the Elysée is important. It shows that France is still behind her and hasn’t dropped her. She has been through difficult times recently.”

Cassez, 37, was sentenced to 60 years in jail in 2009 for taking part in kidnappings, associating with criminals and being in possession of illegal weapon. She has always maintained her innocence.

Cassez was arrested in 2005 with her then boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, head of a notorious kidnapping gang. The long-running legal battle centres on how police handled the arrest and on evidence from kidnap victims who were blindfolded and never saw their captors, but claimed to have recognised Cassez’s voice.

Sarkozy made her plight a cause célèbre, regularly telephoning her. But his blistering criticism of the Mexican authorities and decision in 2011 to “dedicate” a joint cultural year to Cassez led to Mexico pulling out of the event and a diplomatic crisis.

His Elysée successor, François Hollande, who has spoken to Cassez’ parents by telephone “several times” according to reports, is determined to be more subtle, believing insulting the Mexican legal system will not help free her.

A French diplomat in Mexico said Paris had decided to “go carefully” and let Mexican justice do its work. “Any new attempt at pressure will be very badly seen. We have to treat lightly,” the diplomat said.

Romero, who accompanied the French president to Mexico for the meeting of G20 leaders in June, added: “Hollande asked us what was the best way to proceed to avoid anything that might be seen as a provocation. We have learned the lesson.”

In March, Mexico’s supreme court ruled 3-2 against releasing Cassez, but agreed to study her appeal after admitting her rights had been violated and claims of irregularities in her trial. It is expected to make a final decision whether to uphold or quash Cassez’s conviction, or order a retrial, early in 2013.

Cassez’s French lawyer, Frank Berton, has called the situation “a massive judicial impasse”. In Mexico, where kidnappings by criminal gangs are common, her case elicits little public sympathy and relatives of the kidnap victims have expressed outrage at her “special treatment” and possible release.

Trierweiler’s involvement has unfortunate echoes of the former first lady Cécilia Sarkozy’s trip to Libya in 2007 to save a group of Bulgarian nurses jailed under Muammar Gaddafi. Nicolas Sarkozy claimed the release was a great success while European Union officials who had been working behind the scenes to secure the nurses’ release accused the then French president of taking the credit for their work.

Cassez’s family and supporters hope Hollande will raise her case when he receives Mexico’s new president Enrique Peña Nieto, who takes up office in December, at the Elysée next week. At the same time, Trierweiler will have lunch with the Mexican first lady, Angélica Rivera.

Read also : BBC News