Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mexican High Court Orders Release of Florence Cassez

Mexico’s top court ordered the immediate release of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted five years ago for participating in a kidnapping ring.

Three of the five Mexican Supreme Court justices agreed with the motion by Justice Olga Sanchez that alleged that that the case against Cassez was riddled with irregularities.  Her motion, which was first presented last year, alleged that the victims’ testimony against Cassez was contradictory. Furthermore, some of the testimony against her was based on a staged TV raid of the kidnapping gang that gave the false impression that Cassez was part of that arrest.  (Portions of that faked raid including Cassez’ shocked reaction in from of the cameras can be seen in the above embedded video).

Cassez was originally sentenced in 2008 to ninety-eight years in prison in a closed-door, non-jury trial.  Last March the top court rejected an appeal in Cassez’ name but accepted reviewing her case.  Nevertheless, the court’s decision this afternoon was reportedly a surprise since it was expected that they would order a retrial instead of overturning her sixty-year prison sentence and calling for Cassez to be freed.  

Her case has led to diplomatic tensions between France and Mexico; for instance, then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested dedicating the 2011 “Year of Mexico in France” cultural festival in honor of Cassez.

The court’s decision will likely be a black eye against a Mexican justice system allegedly plagued by problems.  Yet as noted by Spanish daily El Mundo, today’s ruling also represents a black eye to a key figure of the administration of ex-President Felipe Calderon:

The ruling is a blow to the Genaro Garcia Luna, the man of a thousand secrets and a Rasputin regarding security matters under Felipe Calderon.  He was responsible for staging the arrest of the kidnappers Florence Cassez and Ignacio Vallarta and the rescue of three victims. The pantomime (labelled a “recreation” by Garcia Luna) in December 2005 was presented on television as real. Police and television networks misled the audience saying the rescue and arrests were occurring live.
The Cassez case is reminiscent of the shortcomings in the Mexican judicial system highlighted by the 2010 documentary “Presumed Guilty.”

Video Source– YouTube via user La Silla Rota

Online Sources – El Universal,, BBC News, New York Times, Human Rights Watch, France24, The Latin Americanist

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