Frenchwoman jailed in Mexico rips press

Fox news

Nov 2011

Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to 60 years in prison in Mexico, said in an interview aired Sunday on French television that reports in the Mexican press alleging that she was involved in illegal activities in prison were “a baseless new set-up.”

“This is gossip from rags,” Cassez told France’s M6 television network, adding that if the allegations were valid the police would have charged her.

Asked about the origins of the articles, which alleged that the Frenchwoman was involved in, among other crimes, drug sales in the prison, Cassez said it “could be anybody” behind them.

Mexico’s Supreme Court agreed in March to review Cassez’s case, which has become a sore point in bilateral relations.

“It’s clear that they are willing to do anything” because they “did not like” the fact that the case reached the Supreme Court, Cassez said in response to a question about whether Mexican Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, who was head of the Federal Police at the time of her arrest, was involved.

Mexico’s Supreme Court justices “should study my file” and “take their time,” Cassez said.

The Frenchwoman, who asked the high court for a review of the Feb. 10 ruling by a lower court, said she was “cautiously hopeful” that the Supreme Court would rule in her favor, rating her expectations for a positive outcome at seven on a scale of one to 10.

Cassez, who turned 37 last Thursday, told M6 that she expected to prove her innocence and never expected to spend 60 years behind bars.

French officials continue working on the case, Cassez said, adding that everything changed once President Nicolas Sarkozy became involved in her defense.

Officials have asked the French Catholic Church to lobby the Mexican Catholic Church, which investigated the case, to help win Cassez’s freedom, M6 reported before airing the interview.

The Mexican Catholic Church’s investigation determined that failures in the justice system led to Cassez’s conviction.

Cassez contends that her rights were violated when she was arrested more than five years ago.

France and Mexico spent several weeks sparring over the Cassez case earlier this year.

Some French officials and Cassez’s family called for the cancellation of the “Year of Mexico,” a series of more than 350 art, cultural and business events scheduled to be held in France throughout the course of 2011.

Mexico said it would not participate in the celebration in the wake of Sarkozy’s announcement in February that the series of events would be dedicated to Cassez.

France has asked Mexico to repatriate Cassez so she can serve out her sentence in her homeland.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration has said the Frenchwoman – who received a 98-year prison sentence in 2008 that was subsequently reduced to 60 years – cannot be repatriated due to the possibility that Cassez could obtain a drastic reduction or suspension of her sentence if she were to be sent back to France.

Cassez was arrested on Dec. 8, 2005, on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway along with her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the suspected leader of the Los Zodiaco kidnapping gang.

A day later, agents from the now-defunct AFI, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI, staged a mock raid so TV cameras could film the arrest of the gang members in a wooded area near Mexico City.

Cassez’s defense team said witnesses changed their testimony and implicated the Frenchwoman in the abductions after it emerged that the raid shown on television was a re-enactment of the original police operation.

The Frenchwoman has proclaimed her innocence from the beginning, denying that she participated in kidnappings.