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Latino Daily News

Tuesday January 29, 2013

Formely Imprisoned in Mexico, Cassez Thanks Former French Pres. Sakozy for Getting her Out

Formely Imprisoned in Mexico, Cassez Thanks Former French Pres. Sakozy for Getting her Out

Photo: Formely Imprisoned in Mexico, Cassez Thanks Former French Pres. Sakozy for Getting her Out

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Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, who was ordered released from prison by the Mexican Supreme Court after serving seven years on a kidnapping conviction, met on Monday with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and thanked him for his efforts on her behalf.

“It was a great moment” and “very pleasant,” Cassez told reporters after meeting with Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, at his Paris office.

The 38-year-old 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.

On Jan. 23, the Mexican Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of Cassez, who was convicted of kidnapping and other crimes in Mexico and sentenced to serve 60 years in prison, citing the re-enactment of the raid and other due process violations in its ruling on the case.

Sarkozy pressured Mexico to transfer Cassez to a French prison to serve out her term, invoking the Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which Mexico signed in 2007.

The administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, however, insisted that the Frenchwoman - who received a 98-year prison sentence in 2008 that was subsequently reduced to 60 years - could not be repatriated due to the possibility that she might obtain a drastic reduction or suspension of her sentence in France.

Some of Sarkozy’s statements about the Cassez case caused diplomatic tensions with Mexico, especially his call in February 2011 to dedicate the “Year of Mexico,” a series of more than 350 art, cultural and business events scheduled to be held in France, to the jailed Frenchwoman.

Cassez asked the reporters waiting outside Sarkozy’s office to allow her to “return to (my) life.”