Photo: Florence Cassez Freed
Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, who was ordered released from prison by the Mexican Supreme Court after serving seven years on a kidnapping conviction, said Thursday in Paris that she was a victim in the case.
“I suffered a kidnapping, I suffered as a victim for seven years,” Cassez said in a press conference at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The Mexican Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of Cassez, who was convicted of kidnapping and other crimes in Mexico and sentenced to serve 60 years in prison.
“Putting the ones who are really guilty in prison is how you help the victims. That’s where respect for kidnapping victims starts,” Cassez said.
The previous Mexican administration committed an “injustice,” the Frenchwoman said.
“I was afraid, but I decided to fight, whatever the cost might be,” Cassez said.
Mexico’s high court voted 3-2 to release Cassez without any conditions.
“I believe Mexico is experiencing great changes, with respect to human rights, with the arrival of (President Enrique) Peña Nieto,” who succeeded Felipe Calderon as head of state on Dec. 1, Cassez said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, for his part, praised Mexico as “a great democracy.”
The foreign minister welcomed Cassez back to France and said her return brought “joy to all French people.”
Peña Nieto visited France during a tour of Europe that he completed before taking office last year.
Peña Nieto told French President François Hollande during his visit to Paris last October that he wanted to remove the Cassez case as an issue in bilateral relations and leave it in the hands of the courts, Fabius said.
Former French President Nicolas 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 Calderon administration, 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’s attorney, Agustin Acosta, said Tuesday that the Mexican federal law enforcement agency that arrested the Frenchwoman acted “in bad faith.”
“This matter is marked, is sealed by the issue of the staging (of her arrest),” the attorney said.
Florence 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.
The re-enactment of the raid is among the irregularities in the case, making it seem as if Cassez was being arrested at that time, the Cassez family and attorneys have argued.
The Frenchwoman has proclaimed her innocence from the beginning, denying that she participated in kidnappings.