Mexico: Court rejects Frenchwoman's appeal

11th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Mexican court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a French woman who is serving a 60-year prison term for kidnapping.

Florence Cassez, 36, lost her appeal when a three-judge panel rejected her lawyer's argument that her conviction was tainted by authorities, who staged her arrest five year ago.

"This is a disgrace and demonstrates a total disregard for justice in this country," said Frank Berton, an attorney for Cassez, who has served more than five years of her sentence.

Cassez was arrested in a December 2005 police operation broadcast live on Mexican TV. During the operation several hostages were released and Cassez's ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta, a Mexican citizen was arrested.

Cassez however claims that she had been arrested the day before, and her lawyer says the arrest was staged.

Vallarta has admitted his part in the crimes and said Cassez was innocent.

The judges made their decision after less than six hours of deliberations.

The case has created diplomatic tension between Mexico and France, particularly since French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited two years ago.

Sarkozy has asked that Cassez be allowed to serve out her prison term in France, but the request was rejected.

Attorneys for Cassez, a high school dropout, claimed the case had violated her rights, as well as Mexico's constitution.

Prosecutors have admitted that the staging of Cassez's arrest was a mistake, and her lawyers have said police acted illegally, but the court ruled it had no effect on her conviction.

Cassez has repeatedly proclaimed her innocence and alleges that she was made a scapegoat by Mexican authorities keen to show a tough stance on rampant kidnappings.

Berton said the long prison term amounts to a death sentence for his client, who moved to Mexico in 2003 to work with her brother.

© 2011 AFP

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