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Americas

Florence Cassez arrives in France after seven years in Mexican jail

media Florence Cassez (C) with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and … Reuters/Christian Hartmann

Florence Cassez, the Frenchwoman freed after seven years in a Mexican jail, arrived at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport on Thursday afternoon. She was met by Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier, who represents the north of France where her family live, but neither President François Hollande not his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy were present.

Cassez, who was accompanied by her father, Bernard, who went to Mexico to fetch her, said she wanted to make the most of her family and live.

Her mother, Charlotte, was waiting at the airport.

Click to enlarge
Depression Florence Cassez

Cassez took to painting while in jail. An exhibition of her works was organised in Paris in Decemberand François Hollande's partner, Valérie Trierweiller, attended. The picture above is called Depression.

Cassez “wants a bit of quite” and to “return to a normal life”, her mother said before her arrival.

But already a political row is brewing over which president played more of a role in her liberation by Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Former Interior Minister Claude Guéant has accused the ruling Socialists of playing politics after the party’s leader in the Senate, Jean-Pierre Bel, praised Hollande’s “discretion” in handling the affair.

That was an implicit criticism of Sarkozy’s more confrontational approach, which led to Mexico calling off the Year of Mexico in France in 2011 because the then-president insisted on dedicating it to Cassez.

Many commentators credit another president, Mexico’s recently elected Enrique Pen Nieto, with the change in judicial attitudes that led to the court freeing Cassez on technical grounds.

The court did not pronounce on her guilt or innocence but judged her conviction invalid because police had reenacted her 2005 arrest for the TV cameras several hours after it actually took place.

Cassez was jailed for 60 years after being accused of being part of a gang, the Zodiacs, that was allegedly led by her ex-boyfriend Israel Vallarta and was responsible for several kidnappings and murder.

She is to meet Sarkozy, who declared himself “very happy” at the news of her release, at a later date and Hollande is to receive her and her family at the Elysée Palace on Friday.

The head of her support committee, Jean-Luc Romero, described as “disgusting, very unfair” claims that Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiller, had exploited the case by meeting Charlotte Cassez on Wednesday evening.

He had asked Trierweiller to be present, he said, adding that her participation in the support committee was also at his suggestion.

Not everyone was delighted when Cassez left Tepepan prison for women, wearing a flak jacket and accompanied by police and her father.

Some onlookers shouted abuse and rights groups commented that the victims had been forgotten.

"Sadly, today showed that the rights of victims don't count," said Isabel Miranda de Wallace, leader of the Stop the Kidnapping Association. "What counts is power, money and connections, leaving the victims with empty hands."
 

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