Mexico quashes Frenchwoman's kidnap charge after seven years in jail

Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:38am EST
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By Alexandra Alper

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's top court freed a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping on Wednesday, ruling that her trial was tainted and ending a seven-year imprisonment that strained ties with France.

Florence Cassez, 38, was sentenced to 60 years in prison after she was arrested in 2005 at a ranch near Mexico City with her former boyfriend, who led a kidnapping gang called the Zodiacs.

Supreme Court Judge Jorge Pardo ordered her release during a televised court session, which at one point looked to be going against Cassez.

Hours later, she was whisked from a Mexico City prison in a vehicle flanked by police trucks to the capital's international airport where she was put on an Air France plane back home.

Cassez, who had maintained she was innocent, and her father were both pictured wearing black flak jackets as they left the prison.

"It's an explosion of joy. It's wonderful," Charlotte Cassez, her mother, told French television.

"It's not far from being the best day of my life. We've been waiting for so long. She deserves it. She is innocent and has fought to prove that. It's a victory for her."

The French government had sharply criticized Mexico for its treatment of Cassez and welcomed her release on Wednesday.   Continued...

Members of the media stand outside the entrance of a prison where French national Florence Cassez is imprisoned in Mexico City January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo