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300 PALABRAS - Controversial Decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court in Cassez Case

February 10, 2013
300 PALABRAS - Controversial Decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court in Cassez Case

The recent decision by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice in the widely publicized Cassez case shocked the country in a way that had not occurred since the same court decided to confirm a labor court resolution in favor of petroleum workers, which led the government to expropriate petroleum companies. In that case, the Court's decision to deny a constitutional amparo action filed by 17 companies led to an international conflict. In the present case, the January 2013 decision granted a favorable amparo decision, resulting in the release of French national Florenz Cassez, who had been accused of kidnapping and previously sentenced by a Mexican federal court to 60 years in prison, of which seven had already been served. The case was widely publicized and the subject of much public opinion in Mexico, leading to intense commentary among the media, academics and the general public. With this decision, most Mexicans believe an injustice was committed against the kidnapping victims. A minority of Mexicans think that it was proper to set Cassez free as a result of irregularities that tainted the legal process and violated the rights of the accused. This matter escalated as Cassez returned to France immediately after her release and was given a hero's welcome. It was reported that two French ministers were present at the airport to greet her. Moreover, she met with French President François Hollande at the presidential residence, Palacio del Eliseo. The previous president, Valerie Sarkozy, also had a meeting with Cassez that was widely scrutinized by French media and television. This case posited two irreconcilable positions: the position of those who believe that the proceeding should be repeated and that the accused should be given a new trial and, on the other extreme, the position of those who are of the view that a violation of fundamental rights in a legal proceeding invalidates the process, and that liberty for Cassez was proper. The Supreme Court vote on this decision was 5 - 3; however, public opinion was 80% - 20%, with 80% opposing the Supreme Court's decision. While the decision in this case is legally questionable, the least one can expect is for this ordeal to result in an improved tone in bilateral relations between Mexico and France given the tension over this issue that has existed for the past seven years.

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