Mexico, France in diplomatic flap over convicted kidnapper

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Mexico and France have had a sharp-worded exchange in recent days over the kidnapping conviction of a French national in Mexico City. The dispute is escalating into a serious diplomatic row, as each country summoned the other’s ambassador and the government of France is threatening to raise the issue at the upcoming G-20 ministerial summit in Paris (link in Spanish).


The French national, Florence Cassez, was arrested in 2006 and convicted on kidnapping charges. Late last week a Mexican court upheld a 60-year prison term as punishment. The French government lashed out, suggesting that Mexico’s judicial system is too flawed to offer a fair trial. French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie chose somewhat undiplomatic language to decry the court’s ruling as ‘deplorable’ and ‘unjust.’

Mexico shot back, defending the prosecution of Cassez as having been carried out to the letter of the law. The Mexican Foreign Ministry said it ‘profoundly regrets’ Alliot-Marie’s suggestion that bilateral relations between the two nations would be harmed.

None other than French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked for Cassez’s release during a state visit in 2009. Under existing treaties, Cassez could in theory be sent to France to serve her sentence there. But Mexico has refused, suspicious that French authorities would commute the woman’s sentence.

Cassez, now 36, has maintained her innocence (link in French). Her one-time boyfriend, a Mexican national, has confessed to kidnapping at least three people.

-- Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City