Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that a Frenchwoman jailed for 60 years for kidnapping should not be released immediately, in case that has strained relations between France and Mexico and put the latter’s opaque justice system on trial.
But in a 3-2 decision, the court also allowed for the possibility of a retrial, ruling that police violated the constitutional rights of Florence Cassez, 37, by staging her arrest for TV cameras.
Cassez was arrested in 2005 at a ranch on the outskirts of Mexico City and convicted of helping a kidnapping gang – allegedly led by her boyfriend – which kept three victims at the compound, the Associated Press reports.
At least one victim has identified Cassez as a kidnapper, though only by her voice, and not by sight. Cassez denies involvement, saying she was unaware of the kidnapping and the victims’ presence at the ranch.
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On Wednesday the court found that by staging a televised raid of the compound a day after the alleged kidnappers had been arrested, Mexican officials had violated her constitutional rights, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In a motion to the court, Cassez’s lawyer also said that police failed to notify the French consulate of her arrest and did not present her to investigative officials, effectively denying her consular rights and the right to be presumed innocent after arrest.
The case has strained diplomatic relations between France and Mexico, with both nations cancelling a series of high-profile joint cultural events last year.
Paris and the wider French public regard Cassez as the victim of a miscarriage of justice, but she has received little public sympathy from ordinary Mexicans, frightened by a wave of kidnappings that have swept the country and sometimes resulted in victims being murdered even after ransoms have been paid, according to the BBC.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has questioned her conviction and requested that Cassez be returned home.
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